Ethics Cool-Down, 1/8/2021: Be Afraid…[Corrected]

I checked: over the past seven years, no fewer than six regular Ethics Alarms commenters have written me to say they were withdrawing from the blog for reasons related to their emotional, mental or physical health.

Ethics is supposed to be good for you…

1. The President announced that he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration, thus overtaking Hillary Clinton as the “worst loser” in all of American Presidential history. Andrew Johnson declined to see in his successor, President Grant, and was certainly bitter, but he didn’t lose the election: he wasn’t even nominated. John Adams, who did lose to Jefferson in his bid for a second term, didn’t attend his lifetime frenemy’s swearing in, but had the valid excuse that he was mourning the death of his son Charles. John Quincy Adams, John’s son, comes closest to Trump’s sore loser act, as he also refused to go to the inauguration of the man who defeated him, Andrew Jackson. However, “Quincy” had good reason to be afraid of “Old Hickory,” who was furious with Adams for letting his campaign attack his wife.

Trump should attend the inauguration, of course, though I am not surprised that he isn’t. It would be a unifying gesture, and would also show character, courage, and patriotism. It is an important tradition for the incoming and outgoing Presidents to jointly engage in the orderly transfer of power.

2. The vise tightens. Apparently Big Tech and social media have decided not to even try to hide their collective assault on free expression and dissenting views:

  • Twitter permanently banned the President of the United States from its platform. I don’t care what their official excuse is: this is a major communications source placing its fist down hard on one side of the scales of political discourse. It signaled this long ago, for those of us who weren’t trying to gaslight the public. Civil libertarians should be concerned, but they aren’t, because they almost unanimously are perfectly happy to see those they don’t like or disagree with silenced. Iran’s Ayatollah, meanwhile, can still send out tweets while he supports terrorism.
  • Facebook also banned the President from its platform. Again, this is purely partisan political censorship. The US is facing a single party in control of two branches of the government allied with the news media, social media and the tech firms to stifle dissent and political opposition.

3. But wait! There’s more! Simon & Schuster announced that it has canceled its planned June publication of  “The Tyranny of Big Tech” by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo), the first Senator who objected to the Electoral College results declaring Joe Biden the president-elect.  The company said it canceled publication “after witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.” And what, exactly, did the actions of a couple hundred jackasses have to do with the value of Hawley’s book, and how did a Senator’s completely legal objection to the election results have any relation  to a riot he neither encouraged nor endorsed?

In its statement, the publisher said it “cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.” There are legitimate questions about the election; 40% of the public believes that it was manipulated, and any member of Congress is completely ethical and responsible to take steps to ensure a full investigation and transparent reckoning. He had no “role” in the rioting whatsoever.

Hawley released his own statement on Twitter calling the cancellation of his book “Orwellian,” and saying in part, “Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment. Only approved speech can now be published.”

Enablers of the slow suffocation of dissent by the cancel culture quickly argued that a private publisher is not required by the First Amendment to publish anything, but Hawley was using “First Amendment” as a synonym for freedom of speech. We will not have freedom of speech if the means of communication—books, social media, news organizations like the New York Times—are used to filter out speech that one political end of the spectrum finds inconvenient.

S&S, responding to Hawley’s statement, replied that it was “confident” that its decision to cancel the book was “fully within our contractual rights.” That’s Rationalization #4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.

Yes, it is legal for publishing companies to use their power and business prominence to undermine the goal of nurturing an informed citizenry while enabling single party rule. It is also unethical.

4. I think that’s all I care to think about right now, before Ethics Alarms starts endangering MY health.

79 thoughts on “Ethics Cool-Down, 1/8/2021: Be Afraid…[Corrected]

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