Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2021: Onward!

We need a rousing hymn today!

Today marks two major milestones in the largely failed effort to use international bodies to promote world peace.

On January 10, 1920, the League of Nations formally was launched when the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 nations in 1919, took effect. Unfortunately for the body, the United States was not one of the 42, the Republican-controlled Senate having rejected the pact after President Woodrow Wilson had condemned the world to another world war by enabling brutal revenge on Germany by the winners of the Great War in order to get his dream off the drawing board.

The League of Nations proceeded without the United States, holding its first meeting in Geneva on November 15, 1920. During the 1920s, the League, headquartered in Geneva,successfully mediated minor international disputes. But when serious international tensions rose in the early 1930s, the League proved tragically ineffectual. After its invasion of China was condemned, Japan just quit the organization. Nor did the organization deal with the rearmament of Germany and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. By the time World War II began, the League was silent and effectively defunct. In 1946, the League of Nations was officially dissolved with the the first meeting of the United Nations, which, coincidentally or by chance, also occurred on January 10. Whether its successor at this time in its history is any more effectual than the League of Nations was a topic for another day.

1 You think we’ve got ethics problems? If Rationalization #22 works for you, here’s something to ponder: I June, the Pakistani aviation minister told the nation’s Parliament that around a third of the pilots working for Pakistan air carriers had fraudulent pilot licenses.

2. Let’s see: is it possible for me to disagree with anyone more than I disagree with this guy? I don’t think so. Michigan State Professor Peter De Costa told MSU Today that it constituted “linguistic racism,” which he defines as “acts of racism […] perpetuated against individuals on the basis of their language use,” to ask a person to repeat what he said because you can’t understand what he or she said due to a strong non-English accent. [Pointer: The College Fix]

I guess its better to just pretend you understand, and make a mistake, or not to be able to respond to what the individual asked.

De Costa’s article “Linguistic racism: its negative effects and why we need to contest it” was published in the “International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.” Note that when someone boasts of having a “peer-reviewed article” published in a scholarly journal, that doesn’t mean the article isn’t utter crap, or that the author is worth paying attention to.

3. Scared yet? (cont.) Indie rock musician Ariel Pink was dumped from his record label this week for attending the January 6 pro-Trump’s rally in Washington, D.C.. There was no evidence that the singer participated in the subsequent rioting, but never mind. Mexican Summer, his New York-based record label, announced that it was dropping Pink from its stable of artists, saying, “Due to recent events, Mexican Summer and its staff have decided to end our working relationship with Ariel Rosenberg AKA Ariel Pink moving forward.”

Gathering to engage in a protest is a Constitutional right. and the objective of the protest was to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections which is very much in doubt. This is viewpoint discrimination, straight up.

4. Non-political hypocrisy story of the week: this one. The New York Times sports columnists Kurt Streeter fell in line with his paper’s dedication to Wuhan virus fearmongering by declaring the University of Connecticut brave, responsible and heroic for refusing to let its football team take the field. This was epic grandstanding:

In the end, out of 130 F.B.S. teams, only three sat out the season: Old Dominion and New Mexico State joined Connecticut. “It was simply the right thing,” UConn Coach Randy Edsall said over the phone last week. “I never questioned the decision we made. Not once.” If more coaches were willing to take such a stand, maybe we could have avoided the folly of college football during the pandemic. The airplane trips, hotel stays and games played on campuses that were drenched in virus. Maybe we could have avoided the cancellations and the sickness that spread to players, coaches and support staff.Maybe we wouldn’t have been confronted with the immoral sight of unpaid athletes, bereft of labor and health protections, pushed to the field as an entertainment product in the support of a billion-dollar industry.

Oddly, the few college players who were infected by the virus recovered, because they constitute a demographic group that is remarkably resilient to it. College football players are not so resilient to the concussions and mini-concussions they routinely receive, which research increasingly shows can cripple and kill them as they age. On balance, the sport of college football itself is more deadly to young men than the pandemic: why isn’t refusing to field a football team ever “the right thing to do”?

5. The perilous struggle to be appear neutral. It’s interesting watching blogger Ann Althouse, who has proclaimed her political neutrality, as she tries to balance fairness against accusations that she is too easy on President Trump. The problem is that trying to fight the appearance of one bias often leads one into unethical over-correction. Having pointed out that there was nothing in Trump’s speech to the protesters that suggested violence or encouraged rioting (despite the false narrative being pushed by the AUC), Althouse posted today the qualification that “if he was informed of a plan, then I will read all of those statements as an incitement, and I would have to say that he should resign.”

This is a variety of fake news on the Ethics Alarms list: “psychic news,” or perhaps “hypothetical news.” The entire Russian collusion investigation, one of the 20 Democratic coup attempts, was based on such insidious speculation. We can expect a Times headline any day now, reading “Trump may have been informed of a plan to storm the Capitol. (Then again, he may not have.) This is beneath Ann, but she’s working hard to be neutral. The problem is that a point is reached where neutrality is impossible, and the pendulum swings into unethical territory.

There is no evidence, none, that there was a planned riot. Althouse cites a statement from a single un-named demonstrator, which isn’t evidence of any plan. I’m sure individuals in most demonstrations are itching to riot, but a desire isn’t a plan. She’s now bending over backwards to impugn Trump on speculation, after using his actual words to conclude that he wasn’t inciting violence by any legal or ethical standard.

It was nice to see her commentariat, which in many ways mirrors Ethics Alarms’ (except that it is, oh, 20 times larger) so dubious about their host’s theory. Examples:

  • “Althouse wrote: and I would have to say that he should resign. Based on an unconfirmed rumor printed by Buzzfeed.”
  • “The man who won 17 of 18 bellwether counties and by an average of 15% was cheated out of the election by lawless fascists. Trump should resign because your mind-reading says he incited a demonstration. What does your mind-reading say about the unelected pair who are about to be inaugurated President and Vice? Which prizes should they be awarded to go with those new offices?”
  • “That might be evidence of a plan, or it might just be normal run of the mill bravado that you see at protests all the time. You’d have to know if there was a plan before you could cite it as evidence of the plan. It’s too vague, general, and normal to do it the other way around. I’ve seen nothing that indicates planning to engage in illegal activity. There has been nothing at all produced showing more than a few sporadic acts of opportunism, people caught up in the moment. For all the incendiary rhetoric by Democratic leaders and their lapdogs in the media, not much happen Wednesday. Not by the standards of 2020.I withheld judgment and minimized my exposure for 48 hours to see what claims had staying power and it’s clear this is 90% spin by the left to take advantage of an opportunity.”
  • “Remind me, prof, did you make a similar call for virtually the entire leadership of the DNC to resign for egging on, organizing and paying for a year of riots, arson, looting and rioting in our cities?”
  • “I keep bringing this up and I expect it to gain traction over time—how much actual violence was there? Very little as far as I can tell. Virtually none of the cries of insurrection, storming, etc, are accompanied by evidence. Should Trump resign if he knew of the plan? That’s an absurd question raised by unserious people when it hasn’t even been demonstrated that there was a plan. A plan for what? For some guy from Canada to wave a confederate flag or another guy who has never voted in a federal election in his life to pose smilingly for pictures with Pelosi’s podium in his arms? For a guy in animal skins to be photographed waving his arms? For capital guards to over-react and kill a woman for climbing through a broken window into a room fill of armed police?’

And so on. As an ethical lawyer once told me to explain how he made an ethics mistake trying to overcome his bias against a slimy client, trying to avoid looking biased often ends up making you do unethical things.

11 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2021: Onward!

  1. #3 It has begun…

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
    Martin Niemöller

    Nothing more need be said.

  2. Regarding #2: Is it racist for me, an individual of Irish descent, to ask a Southie to repeat what he said because I can’t understand him?

  3. Point #1…
    Back in the day when I was traveling extensively in Asia, the wags used to say that the PIA initials of Pakistan International Airlines actually meant Please Inform Allah.

  4. Man all those racist Chinese who constantly asked me to repeat parts of my lessons. I thought I was helping them. Turns out, they were just bigots.

  5. About twenty-five years ago I was invited to make a presentation at a community policing conference in Baltimore, There were folks in attendance from all over the eastern U.S., but there was an especially large contingent from the northeast. I am a native East Tennessean and I sound like it. After my presentation -near the end of the week- a northern-hailing member of the audience came up and thanked me for my workshop, but added, “I bet you have a hard time at these events with that odd dialect.”
    I said, “Yes I’ve been struggling to understand you guys all week.”

  6. I find De Costa’s position an interesting conflict for a university professor. For instance, many Chinese and Indian natives who are studying for their PhDs in math and the sciences are instructors for 1st and 2nd year classes in their field of study. If the instructor’s thick accent deprives the students of effective instruction in their course of study, how can this be the student’s problem? Unless teaching principles have changed, isn’t it the instructor’s responsibility to reach the student if, in fact, the student has done all the course work? What bull shit.

    • 4. No player is being forced onto the field. Every player had the option of opting out of the season without losing his scholarship and many did so, including some of the most prominent players, whose absence cannot have gone unnoticed by any competent sportswriter. I suspect that Streeter knows this but why let facts get in the way of grandstanding? That’s not the New York Times way!

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