Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2021: Twitter Makes You Stupid, But So Many Other Things Will Too…

Mount Vernon morning

This isn’t worth a post, but it drives me crazy. Movies, which are primary cultural fodder, especially when the government is forcing the public into solitary confinement, have an obligation not to make society stupid. This is especially important when society’s educational system is dysfunctional, as ours is. Thus I find it both annoying and insulting when a supposedly serious film deliberately abandons all logic and expects audiences to swallow it.

My wife wanted to watch “The Pelican Brief” again, so we did. The film of the John Grisham legal thriller is pretty good, and it has a scene that is supposedly in Georgetown Law Center (it’s not), and has my colleague and sometimes partner Paul Morella in the role of a sinister lawyer. The ending, however, is ridiculous and insulting. Juilia Roberts is a law student at Tulane who ends up being hunted and shot at because she has stumbled upon the reason two Supreme Court Justices were assassinated and who orchestrated it in conspiracy involving law firms, the White House and a billionaire. She ends up bringing down all of them with the help of courageous investigative reporter, then leaving the country for her own safety. Her name, Darby Shaw, is on the reporter’s bombshell news story that exposes the plot. Yet the movie ends with the reporter (Denzel Washington) being asked in a TV interview (by real news anchor )Edwin Newman, who looks like a fool)whether she really exists. The woman is 24 years old. The news media has her real name. She was enrolled at Tulane. She’s paid taxes. The slightest effort by any news organization would have uncovered her entire life history.

1. Neera Tanden (cont.) The divisive, dishonest, hyper-partisan and uncivil nominee for Budget Director was a dead nominee walking since February 18, when Sen, Joe Manshin broke ranks and said he would vote against her. The responsible move would have been for Tanden to withdraw then, but instead she waited two weeks, finally pulling her name (or being forced to) yesterday. I guess this gave Democrats a chance to claim Republicans were against her because she was “of color” and a “strong woman,” which indeed they did, but the fact is she should never have been nominated.

2. When the Equality Act goes down in flames in the Senate, as it will, the LGBTQ community will have no one to blame but itself. The bill that narrowly passed in the House seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit bans on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in both public and private spaces.

The Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision in June, 2020 that the 1964 Civil Rights law protects gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination, and that the language of the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. House Democrats sought to build on that ruling with the Equality Act, which would expand the scope of civil rights protections beyond workers to consumers at businesses. But activists want to be able to force bakers to make same sex wedding cakes and photographers to photograph gay weddings, which would gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That was the law that spawned the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case prohibiting governments from enacting laws that “substantially burden” an individual’s freedom to exercise religious beliefs. The House bill, if passed by the Senate, would also probably prohibit athletic organizations from banning ex-males and transitioning females from competing against natural females in athletic competitions.

Also prohibited would be the right of a beauty contest to declare that its contestants had to be “natural-born” females. A federal judge last week threw out a lawsuit by a transgender woman who accused the private pageant corporation of discrimination for denying her the right to participate in competitions. U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman said, “I view it as an association that cannot under the Constitution be required to allow plaintiff to participate in what defendant says is a contradiction of that message.”

From deliberately targeting religious business owners to force them to do what they feel their faith prohibits, to insisting that anyone who calls herself female must be treated as one even if every biological marker of maleness is intact, the LGBTQ community has alienated even many of its philosophical allies. A little acknowledgement of the legitimate concerns of others not in their group as well as respect for choices other than theirs might have led to a less radical bill and some real progress. Most Americans don’t think of this…

Transgender runner

or this…


…as progress, and I doubt that they ever will.

3. From the “Twitter makes you stupid” files. Bill James is a thinker I admire greatly: he’s responsible for the concept of “signature significance” that I use a lot on Ethics Alarms, and his critical thinking skills are often remarkable. But Bill is addicted to Twitter, and a while back he tweeted,

James tweet 1

Bill did not, in fact create the field of baseball analytics, though he was instrumental in publicizing it, popularizing it, and advancing the discipline. It was a foolish and pompous thing to say that insulted his colleges and collaborators. After being thoroughly flamed, James took down the tweet and tweeted,

James retraction

What kind of excuse for saying something untrue and insulting is “It’s Twitter”? You don’t “have to give the short version,” in fact, you don’t have to use the platform at all. I recommend that responsible people don’t.

4. One more time: the totalitarian Left accuses conservatives of doing what they are doing. I go back and forth on the worst of the New York Times op-ed writers. There are so many dishonest and unethical ones to choose from. I rarely read the op-eds in that paper any more, but when I decided to open the Times Review section on Sunday after months of just tossing it, I encountered this Orwellian screed by a front-runner for the worst of the worst, Michelle Goldberg. Her argument—read the thing yourself; I don’t want to spend more time on it than I have to—is that it’s hypocritical for conservatives to complain about all the frightening censorship of counter-woke opinions and voices on social media, in the news media, by Big Tech and by streaming services ( Amazon pulled a best-selling book criticizing the transgender movement last week, and stopped streaming the critically acclaimed documentary about Clarence Thomas—during Black History Month, yet!) because the Evil Right is passing measures to stop the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the schools.

Of course, Critical Race Theory is racist, and anti-American, and as much intellectual poison as other forms of bigotry. A government has an obligation to stop schools from indoctrinating children in such cynical and hypocritical garbage. Goldberg even has the chutzpah to complain about an Arkansas legislator’s bills banning the teaching of The Times’s “1619 Project” curriculum, despite the fact that it has been thoroughly proven to be historically inaccurate, ideology-driven propaganda.

18 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2021: Twitter Makes You Stupid, But So Many Other Things Will Too…

  1. 2. Yesterday, I went to Amazon to see if it was selling the six now-soon-to-be-not-published Seuss books. The six books in and of themselves are now ridiculously expensive (retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, aren’t offering online orders for them and my local B&N apparently does not have them in stock) and, now, the other Seuss books are flying off the shelves as Americans anticipate the Doctor’s remaining works to soon be cancelled.

    I think Americans are getting tired of this, too. I wonder if we are now reaching the oversaturation point of wokeness. If so, GOOD.

  2. The wrestler is a girl. On steroids. She thinks she’s a boy and wants to wrestle boys but she’s a girl. On steroids. Who has to wrestle girls not on steroids. What a mess.

  3. The wrestler in the picture is Mack Beggs, who transitioned from female to male. Because he’s from Texas, state rules required him to compete in girls’ wrestling rather than against the men who better matched his physique.

  4. 2. The second picture is Mack Beggs, and the characterization isn’t really fair to his case. Mack is a transgender boy, he was born female and transitioned male, including a hormone regimen. Mack wanted to compete in the men’s divisions, but was disallowed because the school division wouldn’t let a transgender youth into the division they were transitioning into, so in order to compete Mack was pushed into the women’s division, where he spanked them.

    I don’t know what to do with cases like Mack, he (or she or they, I really don’t care) obviously wasn’t just medal chasing, like some of the other cases of trans athletes, particularly ones that want to enter women’s sport. And yet… What do you do with that? If trans athletes are allowed into women’s divisions, the long term outcome will be a collapse of women’s sport: We either have sex-segregated sport for a reason, or we don’t. Women, generally, aren’t kept out of men’s leagues, but you don’t often find women that can compete at the top level; it’s why the story of the “first female kicker” in college football last year was a story, and really… Sarah Fuller was more of a publicity stunt than a qualified pick. So, if we do decide that it’s necessary for men’s and women’s divisions to exist, then there needs to be something approximating an objective way to decide who goes where.

    Does it make sense for trans male athletes to compete in male divisions? I don’t know. Perhaps more sense than trans women in women’s divisions, because see above: Most leagues don’t have specific rules restricting women from play, women just can’t compete, so if a trans man *can* compete, then maybe he should be able to. But then there’s the PED discussion… should the hormones that people like Mack take, which absolutely build muscle mass, be enough to disqualify a participant based on their performance enhancing nature? Mack’s body would not be as pictured above without significant medical intervention. Again… I don’t know.

    Perhaps, sport is not a great place for actualization. Nomatter how hard they try, a person suffering from dwarfism will not be able to compete on an NBA court. That’s not an equal outcome, but sport isn’t about equity, it’s about fair play and competition. You can all get participation awards, but only one person or team is going to win. The adults around Mack should not have put him in a position where a female body bulked up on male hormones would be competing against female bodies in an event where steroid use is normally disqualifying. Maybe the right thing to do would be to break it to him: Sorry, but the hormones you take are going to disqualify you from competitive play.

    • Maybe the right thing to do would be to break it to him: Sorry, but the hormones you take are going to disqualify you from competitive play.

      If trans athletes are allowed into women’s divisions, the long term outcome will be a collapse of women’s sport.

      Spot on.

      So ironic lesbians, who dominate in women’s sports, are allied with transgender people being able to participate in women’s sport. I’ve been saying for a long, long time: If sex and gender don’t matter, women’s sport is doomed.

      And I can’t help thinking of the East German Olympic teams of the 1970s when I see that photo of Mack strangling a girl. We have the wonderful scientists in the GDR to thank for anabolic steroids and their becoming a blight on all things sporting. Oh, and thank you Governator as well.

    • Excellent analysis, and, I have to agree that there is no perfect solution to this, including the status quo of years past.
      I like the idea of telling athletes they cannot compete if they are taking PEDs, even if those PEDs are prescribed as part of transitioning. This would have been harsh for Mack who wanted to wrestle against men, but was not allowed to, effectively telling him he could not wrestle in high school athletics at all. But, he might then have decided to delay transition, or he might have found some other and better way than wrestling to express his talents. Sports, in my opinion, can be great for a part of self-actualization, the physical part of becoming one’s best. Self-actualization, of course, requires recognizing one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
      In my 20 years in the high school Junior R.O.T.C. program, I had many students who strongly desired to serve in the military, but who had disqualifying conditions that could not be overcome. The challenge then was to help them discern what their underlying desires were (uniform, travel, patriotism, etc.) and help them identify other post-high school pursuits that would provide at least some of the satisfaction military service would have provided.
      For those like Mack who are transitioning, unfortunately, there are very few sports where men and women compete equally, and the likelihood of finding those at the high school level is not great. As our understanding of gender preference and transitioning improves, and as we strive to provide competitive opportunities for all, expansion of those kinds of sports should be considered. One that I would recommend (and that I coached for those 20 years) would encounter a fair amount of opposition, despite the fact that it is an Olympic sport – rifle marksmanship. But, there are others.

      • It seems to me that there is a solution, although how fair it is, I don’t know. What we have is the NBA – basketball, and the WNBA – women’s basketball. Theoretically, if a woman were to play on a level equal to or better than the men, there’s no gender requirements at all in the NBA. There just aren’t many women performing at that level. So, put only women in the WNBA. Let absolutely everyone try out for the NBA. If a woman, or a mtf trans person, or a ftm trans person can play at or better than the men currently in, let them. Same as everywhere else – NFL, MLB, NHL, olympic powerlifting, you name it. So long as they keep diversity hires out, I doubt much would end up changing from the status quo.

  5. John Grisham. I’ve only read, many years ago, his first book, “The Firm.” I got a HUGE kick out of his description of the creepy feeling one gets working in a big “prestigious” firm. (Who can forget “the prestigious Rose Law Firm?” I can’t.) Completely accurate even in firms that are not actual criminal enterprises. But the second half of that book goes completely off the rails and ends up looking like a Corona brand beer advertisement or a Jimmy Buffet song. Popular fiction has its limitations. Not that Grisham hasn’t become extremely wealthy.

    • An NJ judge hit it right on the money when he said that Grisham only admired outsiders like Reggie Love (the main character in “The Client”) and street lawyers like Jake Brigance (the lawyer in “A Time To Kill”). Otherwise, he had no use for his own chosen profession.

      BTW, “The Pelican Brief” is a flat-out ridiculous plot. I was a 2-L once, and believe me, no one in my class, including me, was clever enough, or had the time, between school, usually working part time, and life generally, to be solving double homicides that apparently the FBI’s best couldn’t solve. I also laughed at the idea that Darby was sleeping with her law professor, and that apparently she was far from his first conquest, since “usually the women came to law school liberated and loose.” Bullshit, the women who come to law school right out of college usually come with serious boyfriends if not engaged, those not coming right from college are usually married. That professor is a sexual predator, plain and simple, but it causes neither him nor his student nor the author any ethical qualm. The two murdered justices, one a curmudgeonly liberal based on William O. Douglas taken up to 11, the other a closeted gay man who secretly goes to porno movies, were nice touches, as was the idiotic president who was even more vacant than the current White House tenant.

      • Grisham improved, but he was always essentially a low wattage Scott Turow. He’s still a lot better writer than Dan Brown.

        Yeah, the student sleeping with her prof bugged me a lot (though one of my classmates married my first year criminal law professor), and the idea that any SCOTUS justice would frequent porn film establishments in public is beyond ridiculous. Robert Culp’s portrayal of an idiot POTUS was clearly a knock on Ford.

      • It’s been a LONG time since I read “The Pelican Brief”, but I think the movie (which I own) took numerous liberties with the plot of the book, which I actually thought was pretty solid. I never progressed beyond “The Firm” (which I read in one evening/overnight), but I enjoyed his first three books immensely. I way more of a Dale Brown / Tom Clancy / Robert Ludlum guy.

        LOVED Robert Ludlum…

  6. Regarding Number 3:

    Just think what Twitter could have done in 1999 to promote Al Gore as inventor of the internet….

  7. #2. Who is this LGBTQ community? There is no “community.” There are people who have decided to speak for all these letter people and there are people who have decided that gays and bisexuals should be lumped in with people who have body dysmorphia.

    The L’s, G’s, and B’s with or without the T’s and Q’s, don’t share the same mind or want the same things at all.

    Why put the blame for attempting to push this “Equality” Act on some “community” that isn’t one? Why assume gays have anything in common with trans? As far as I can tell, the most ardent supporters of this act are straight people who want to feel good about themselves via performative allyship. Quite frankly I don’t know a single gay or bi person who supports this act. But a couple of my straight friends think it’s great.

    In this post, Allison Bailey was portrayed as being yet another feminist who supposedly suddenly started “whining” about men in sports. This was a completely erroneous depiction that I pointed out in the comments, which was never corrected. Bailey is a black lesbian in the UK who has been advocating for years to protect women in sports and separate the T from the LGB. In fact she and others started a non-profit at least two years ago called LGB Alliance. She and the Alliance work with Fair Play for Women another organization (advocating for women in sports) one should know about before assuming to know what a given “community” thinks. For this, she’s been accused of transphobia, harassed, threatened, and is under investigation at her job for speaking out and starting that non-profit.

    If people wonder why women or gays have not spoken up, it is in part because it’s assumed they’re not saying something. Let’s not forget that media doesn’t portray women and gays who speak up at all, unless it’s to depict them negatively.

    Take a look on Twitter at how gays/bisexuals who advocate to separate the T from LGB get responded to. Look at how women who want to center women in women’s sports are railed at.

    Remember, it’s the minorities that often get the worst punishment for not going along with leftist policies. It really doesn’t help when those who are brave enough to speak are erroneously portrayed as “not paying attention” and “whining” when the fact is paying attention and being honest, is totally and willfully ignored or can cost a great deal to their livelihoods.

    Maybe it’s because I have a head cold that I’m frustrated with this assumption about some “community” wanting this act, but seriously, many of us don’t, and to assume so is a load of crap.

    • “So ironic lesbians, who dominate in women’s sports, are allied with transgender people being able to participate in women’s sport.”

      Glad to hear I’m wrong. Or should that be GLAAD? Earnest straight liberals can be annoying beyond belief.

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