Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2020: Zoomed Out


Why is it that running a Zoom seminar from my office is far more exhausting than standing up and talking for three hours?

On the positive side, I was actually allowed to post an Ethics Alarms link today! I wonder if Sean Lennon reads Ethics Alarms…

1. And this woman was an early participant in the Democratic primary debates, in case you’re wondering how the party ended up with Joe Biden. New Age guru Marianne Williamson tweeted,

Williamson debate

Oopsie! Missed that “Thou shalt not steal” thing. So she came back with, “Actually, ‘Thou shalt not steal’ is of course in there. But my point about priorities remains the same.”

Wait, what point would that be? A) It sounds a lot like Rationalization #22. So because stealing isn’t as bad as murder, stealing is OK? B) Is she making a technical legal point that a man waving a knife around and refusing to drop it is “innocent” because he hasn’t been proven guilty? Or is her point that because the victim in the Philadelphia shooting may have been out of his mind meant that he couldn’t form the “mens rea” to be technically guilty of a crime? By these calculations, nobody who is shot by the police is ever guilty, because they are resisting the arrest that would eventually put them on trial.

2. Actual quote from Joe Biden yesterday: “Spending! We’re gonna roost. And we are gonna reduce prescription drug crisis experts acknowledge.”

3.  October 30th has a couple of  notable ethics connections. It was on this day in 1938 that Orson Welles broadcast what has been termed as his “hoax” that the Earth was being invaded by Martians. Of course, there was no hoax: the radio play was announced as such at the beginning, but some hysterics who joined the broadcast mid-way apparently did think the H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds” was the real thing.

In 1735 on this date, John Adams was born, a Founder who made ethics the nucleus of his writings and his public career. Adams once wrote that he knew he was doing the ethical thing when he was sure it would cause him personal pain.

It is also my sister Edith’s birthday.

4. Credo of an asshole. Don Lemon gave his listeners the benefit of this:

There are a lot of friends who I had to really get rid of because they are so nonsensical when it comes to this issue. Every single talking point that they hear on state TV and that they hear from this president, they repeat it and they are blinded by it… I had to get rid of ’em because they are too far gone. I try and I try and I try. They’ll say something really stupid and then I’ll show them the science and give them the information, and they still repeat those talking points… I had to get rid of a lot of people in my life, because sometimes you just have to let ’em go. I think they have to hit rock-bottom, like an addict. Right? And they have to want to get help… It’s so sad, and I don’t know if, after this, I will ever be able to go back and be friends with those people… If they’re willing to come back and they’re willing to live in reality, then I will welcome them with open arms.”

One commenter on this infuriating blather from someone who is supposed to be a trusted journalist called it an example of the he Dunning-Kruger effect. Indeed. As Ethics Alarms has documented, few talking heads have more consistently demonstrated infantile reasoning and the brain rot of uncritical acceptance of partisan talking points. From an ethics perspective, cutting off friends and relatives because they don’t comport with your world view—like not sufficiently hating the President of the United States—is the epitome of disrespect, arrogance, and lack of proportion and tolerance. I regard this as exactly as indefensible as rejecting those who have different religious beliefs.

At its core, it is un-American.

30 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2020: Zoomed Out

  1. Yesterday, Mrs. OB laid into a friend who posted a story on her Facebook page to the effect that if you had any friends who didn’t despise Trump, you should no longer be their friend. It may have even gone so far as to say the same if it were a spouse. I avoid Facebook like the plague but Mrs. OB is much more confrontational when she’s outraged. She called the post “hateful.” Me, I think these kind of people are so deranged there’s no reasoning with them. (The Facebook friend is from the Metropolitan New York area, and a lesbian. So it’s no surprise she’s deranged. People from Metropolitan New York seem absolutely apoplectic about The Donald, which I find hilarious given he’s the quintessential New Yorker!)

    • Ooops. Forgot to reference “Credo of an Asshole.” Great caption. Sounds like the title of a movie from the ’50s. “On the Waterfront” or “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Would that the discussed behavior could be titled “Requiem for a Lightweight (‘s Career).”

    • He certainly sounds like a machine when he’s trying to talk, or at least when he’s reading aloud. Am I the only person who finds the tone of his voice, or its pitch, or cadence, almost symptomatic of dementia? He just talks funny. He doesn’t even sound like Joe Biden. He’s so stiff. Again, I think running him for president is actionable as elder abuse. He ought to be given a guardian ad litem who can sue his wife.

      • I helped my father as he was going through the final stages of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and have thought that Biden has some form of degenerative neurological issue since the started campaigning for the primaries. Initially it was his eyes that caught my attention. They seem unfocused. In his final years my dad had a similar look. I also think some of his outbursts are a significant sign, his name calling when agitated is similar to some of my fathers moments when he seemed to be unable to throttle his thoughts. Finally the effort it seems to take for Biden to enunciate his words. You can see him struggling, somewhat overcompensating with his facial muscles. It’s a sad sight.
        I have a good friend and vapid anti-Trumper that has spent his adult life in the eldercare business. Talking to him on this subject I was stunned when he said he didn’t notice these symptoms but hadn’t really been looking for them. He has yet to admit seeing any signs and I don’t think he will. Hopefully I am wrong, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

  2. As regards your preamble: Zoom presentations are more exhausting because there’s no way to feed on the energy of the audience. It’s impossible to read the room. Everyone is muted, so you can’t hear laughter, or gasps. You can’t make eye contact; in fact, you can’t even tell if people are even paying attention. For those of us who understand that running quality seminars is actually as much a performing art as it is teaching… well, let’s just say that it takes half of our power away.

  3. Many extremely sheltered adults have somehow gone through their entire lives without ever having to learn that being robbed is a very violating and traumatic experience. It goes without saying that being murdered would be worse, but being the victim of theft is no picnic either. Any decent and functioning society should protect and respect property rights.

    I know, I know, the Bible is smarter than Marianne Williamson. Not exactly a shocker. If she (and many other people) are going to go around quoting scripture, it would be nice if they would get into the proper position of “learning from it and trying to apply it” rather than “using it solely to underscore my own opinions.”

  4. I’ve never joined a zoom meeting because zoom is verboten at the company I work for due to security threats. I’ve spent plenty of time in Microsoft Teams/Skype meetings, however, and it is far more exhausting than in person meetings.

    Typical online meeting playing out:

    First five minutes: Spent asking the 2 of 15 expected participants who joined if the remaining people who are supposed to join are planning to join, and messaging/emailing the relevant parties to inquire if they are joining.

    Next five minutes: Spent being ignored.

    Next five minutes: Someone explains whatever points the meeting was created to make and/or ask the questions the meeting was created to ask.

    Next five minutes: Spent cut off by the people who didn’t join on time finally joining and asking what you are talking about. During this period many of the joiners will drop off/rejoin/drop off/rejoin multiple times due to technical issues and/or to join another meeting. They will fail to listen to what was explained/asked. Someone will repeat whatever points the meeting was created to make and/or ask the questions the meeting was created to ask, again, to everyone who doesn’t know what’s going on.

    Next five minutes: The handful of people who have been on the call the whole time explain they are not the right people to answer these questions/explain whatever issue is going on, and someone not present needs to join/rejoin to handle this problem. That person won’t be available for 6 months due to the current glut of online meetings. During this period many of the joiners will drop off/rejoin/drop off/rejoin multiple times due to technical issues and/or to join another meeting. They will fail to listen to what was explained/asked. Someone will repeat whatever points the meeting was created to make and/or ask the questions the meeting was created to ask, again, to everyone who doesn’t know what’s going on.

    Next 5 minutes: The actually necessary person joins, and asks why the meeting is being held. During this period many of the joiners will drop off/rejoin/drop off/rejoin multiple times due to technical issues and/or to join another meeting. They will fail to listen to what was explained/asked. Someone will repeat whatever points the meeting was created to make and/or ask the questions the meeting was created to ask, again, to everyone who doesn’t know what’s going on. The necessary person will say they know the answer/explanation, but don’t have time to explain right now because the meeting is running over schedule and they have another meeting scheduled starting 5 minutes ago. They will need all the originally scheduled attendees to attend a future call to handle the problem/answer the question.

    The next “available” time for all the required participants is 2 weeks in the future, by which time the whole process has been forgotten and needs to be started over.

    Nothing gets done, and the glut of online meetings stacks up in a recursive loop that puts all answers/solutions off to a point somewhere around the infinity point in the future.

  5. 1. That’s actually a pretty common rationalization for those who support BLM, etc. The idea is that people count for more than stuff, so it’s perfectly ok for those who claim oppression, anger, or a grievance to steal, destroy, or otherwise convert stuff, because it’s just stuff. It doesn’t matter whose stuff it is, or what kind of chaos it creates, it’s time to transform this country and lift up the oppressed. Usually it’s not the people whose stuff is getting destroyed saying that, though.

    2. (shrug) Ladies and gentlemen, the soon-to-be-president!

    3. I think there were also commercial breaks and musical interludes that made it clear this wasn’t anything other than a radio play, broadcast every week in that same damn slot. Only an idiot, or someone easily panicked would have believed it was real. Anyone in the areas mentioned could have just looked out the window and seen none of this was going on. But just to make sure, Welles gave the following jocular sign-off:

    “This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn’t soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night. . . so we did the best next thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C. B. S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn’t mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. . .it’s Hallowe’en.”

    A moment later the announcer said that next week’s broadcast would feature a dramatization of three famous short stories.

    Ah yes, John Adams, who defended the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre.

    Happy birthday to your sis, although she is pretty liberal, I think.

    4. I dunno. At some point maybe you have to eliminate people from your life who you find toxic. The real question, I think, is what is an acceptable level for that. Don Lemon displays an unacceptable level of fragility as well as intolerance. He is far from alone, though, I know many people who act like any mention of the president or Fox is the equivalent of mentioning some disgusting thing you don’t mention in polite company. The real problem isn’t idiots like Don Lemon, who is just that, an idiot. The real problem is the acceptance of lousy behavior from those who agree with you that you would never tolerate from those who disagree with you. If I said that I threw a co-worker out of my office because he started Columbus-bashing, and I’m Italian (which I did), the left would call me a close-minded jerk, maybe even some kind of anti-Italian slur. If my dad said he purged some people from social media because he just couldn’t deal with the constant liberal memes, the left would call him thin-skinned. If another lawyer I know said he couldn’t deal with Obama supporters because “you talk to them and three minutes later you want to slap them,” the left would call him a knee-jerker. Reverse it, though, and it’s perfectly acceptable if a lefty acts that way.

    • One of the most popular programs of the day, “The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show”, was pre-empted for another program, so many listeners turned the station and ran into the “Mercury Star Theater” broadcast, having already missed the opening music and introduction.

      The program also utilized what sounded like realistic on-the-scene reporting, keep in mind this wasn’t too terribly long after the Hindenburg crash when America got to hear a panicked reporter describing a cataclysm. Yes, the panic has been overhyped; it wasn’t nearly as bad as has been presented, but it wasn’t necessarily that people really thought there were Martians landing…some of them suspected that it was the Germans attacking.

      It was 1938, after all.

      A really good film was made on the subject, “The Night That Panicked America”.

  6. I wonder if it was not Don Lemon who was being rejected and he is just too smug to realize that.

    After listening to someone whine about how bad life is because of so and so you just stop including that person in your life.

  7. Marianne Williamson exemplifies the rot central in the Democratic Party. What reveals ethics and character are involuntary responses, not planned responses. Our ethics and character are not apparent by what we prepare to do. It’s revealed by what we’re not prepared for and how you react to that — that involuntary reaction. That exposes our ethics and character to the world, i.e., Ms Williamson’s Tweets and Mr. Biden’s habit of embellishment. It’s those things that catch us off guard and reveal the real weakness of our ethics and character that tell us who we really are.

  8. “One commenter on this infuriating blather from someone who is supposed to be a trusted journalist called it an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Indeed.”

    Dunning-Kruger Effect: is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect should be used ad nauseam when rhetorically confronting arguments from the extreme left wing, progressives, ANTIFA, social justice bloviators and the irreverent protesters marching and/or rioting in our streets. These people are showing a disconnect from actual reality.

    Speaking of Dunning-Kruger; I had what turned out to be a fair weather exasperatingly opinionated “friend” that accused me of being a “toxic Dunning-Kruger bloviator” because I challenged what he wrote and I had the audacity of a Conservative to use actual verifiable facts to support my challenge. It was clear from his Facebook posts that anyone that disagreed with anything he posted was labeled toxic, yes he’s a reactionary flaming bigot (a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions) and he’s quite proud to be that way. Of course this is the same “friend” that accused Jack of being a right-wing propagandist and using ethics as an elaborate ruse to hide Fox News and President Trump talking points; he used all sorts of ad hominems towards me and others when he couldn’t intelligently counter verifiable fact based arguments. Yup, I’m the one using actual verifiable facts and he calls me a “toxic Dunning-Kruger bloviator”, yes it was a utter moronic claim on his part. He’s trapped himself in an ideological bubble. I’ve known this “friend” for quite a while, he flushed his ethics and was precariously teetering on the edge of reality back in 2011 when the State if Wisconsin implemented Act 10 and then took a head first dive off Wisconsin’s south central cliffs of reality in 2016 and exhibited a verifiable case of Acute Propaganda-Induced Anti-Trump Hysteria Syndrome. This fair weather “friend” unfriended me.

    Based on my observations of the world around me, here’s where I came up with Acute Propaganda-Induced Anti-Trump Hysteria Syndrome:

    Present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.

    Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

    Succeed in persuading or influencing (someone) to do something.

    To hate anyone or anything that can be remotely connected to President Trump.

    Exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people.

    A group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.

    Testing for Acute Propaganda-Induced Anti-Trump Hysteria Syndrome

    It’s my opinion that there are a lot of morons out there suffering from Acute Propaganda-Induced Anti-Trump Hysteria Syndrome.

  9. 2. This instance of mis-speaking, by itself, doesn’t mean much of anything. Other, more significant, gaffes might be an indication of mental decline.
    The transcript and video are here (Roost at about 11:50):
    “Roost” obviously is a stumble over “reduce”. Biden corrected himself immediately, and omitted it from the transcript. He may have said “drug crisis” or he may have said “drug prices” (sounds like “crisis” to me, but he did say “reduce drug (crisis/prices), the experts acknowledge, by 60 per cent”, not just “experts acknowledge” which makes his sentence grammatically correct.
    The commas, which are implied in his speaking, but which are absent from the transcript, make a difference. Remember this one: “Let’s eat grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, grandma”?

  10. Why is it that when I read the science, it doesn’t match what the people who say ‘trust the science’ are promoting? I haven’t seen much evidence that mask mandates help. I have seen some that are ambiguous, but no slam-dunk studies. I have also seen quite a few that show that they shouldn’t be very effective, and some that show they have actually made the cases and death toll worse. So, what is the science here? I haven’t seen anything that suggests cancelling in-person school is effective. I haven’t seen anything that shows that extended lockdowns are effective. What is this ‘science’ they speak of?

    • “Why is it that when I read the science, it doesn’t match what the people who say ‘trust the science’ are promoting?”

      1. Because they are lying.
      2. They don’t know what they are talking about.
      3. They are just repeating what they have read on Facebook.

      Masks are justified by “it’s can’t hurt” and “Maybe it helps a little” as well as being nice to Wuhan phobics. At some point, however, the downsides have to be recognized.

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