Saturday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 6/5/2020

Giant ants

And what’s a picnic without ants?

June 5, the day before D-Day, is another date chock full of ethics history. It doesn’t count, but Ronald Reagan died on this date in 2004: I was just thinking that the Great Stupid would have killed him. In Presidential history, this was the day, in 1888, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have given a pension to war widow Johanna Loewinger, whose Civil War vet husband died 14 years after being discharged from the army. He was discharged a little less than a year after enlisting for what the army surgeon’s certificate called chronic diarrhea. Loewinger received his pension until he cut his throat in 1876. When Johanna applied for a widow’s pension it was denied; his suicide was not considered to be caused by his military service. Johanna argued that the death was part of the insanity triggered by his war service, and appealed to a member of Congress to petition Cleveland with a bill. But the President declared all previous inquests into the former soldier’s unfortunate death to be satisfactory. Mrs. Loewinger got no pension.

I always thought this was gutsy of Cleveland (or something), since he had paid someone to serve in the Union army for him after he was drafted. But there were bigger ethics landmarks on June 5:

  • In 1967, the Six Day War began as Israel took on its Arab neighbors who had joined forces to wipe the region’s sole democracy off the face of the map. Funny how one doesn’t hear that event mentioned by the historically ignorant who attempt to demonize the nation for striking back at Hamas, which has in its charter the eradication of Israel as a goal. The Six Day War was an ethical war, but how to handle the land Israel won in that war has exemplified Ethics Zugswang ever since, in an Ethics Train Wreck that may never end.
  • In 1963, British Secretary of War John Profumo resigned following revelations that he had lied to the House of Commons about his sexual affair with call girl Christine Keeler. At the time of the affair, Keeler was also involved with Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov, a Soviet spy. Although Profumo assured the government that he had not compromised national security in any way, the scandal nearly brought down Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government. But the best part was that President John F. Kennedy had been having a sexual affair–one of his many—with East-German-born Ellen Rometsch, another high-class call girl married to German Air Force sergeant Rolf Rometsch, who was stationed in Washington. She was one of many prostitutes who Dave Powers, JFK’s Special Assistant, solicited for the POTUSt, and was  rumored to be a communist spy. (As with all his unethical exploits, Kennedy’s activities with her were covered up by the Secret Service and the fawning press.) Just to be on the safe side, Attorney General Robert Kennedy kicked her out of the country when the Profumo Affair broke.
  • And speaking of the President’s ruthless and unjustly lionized brother, RFK was assassinated on this date in 1968, undeniably changing U.S. history….how, no one will ever know.

1. The date also reminds me that I forgot to note last month that I could watch Jennifer Lopez movies again, since she decided to break her engagement with epic baseball cheater and all-around scum Alex Rodriguez. She told friends, the gossip blogs said, that she didn’t think she could trust him. Imagine that! How could she not trust a proven sociopath like ARod, who was caught cheating with banned PED’s more than once and is one of the very few baseball stars ever suspended for a season or more? His first marriage ended after his wife discovered his multiple affairs. You don’t even have to consider Alex’s pattern of trying to cheat during games with various dirty tricks. Good call, Jennifer. Inexplicably late, but still…(She was married to her first husband, Mark Anthony, on June 5.)

2. The French Open is not having a good year. Russian player Yana Sizikova has been released from police custody a day after being arrested at the French Open over match-fixing allegations related to last year’s tournament. Right now, nobody knows what’s going on. However, of all the professional sports, tennis has long been one of the easiest to fix, once gambling is involved. As Ethics Alarms often says, if people can cheat and profit from it, they will. Basketball is also easy, since you only have to bribe a referee, and that has happened.

I’ve been expecting a tennis match-fixing scandal for a long time. I guess match-fixing really is difficult to catch—you know, like voting fraud.

3. Sarcasm alert: “Gee, why would anyone think that Facebook is working to help the Democrats?” Facebook announced that it will keep banning Donald Trump from its platform until at least “early 2023,” or just after the 2022 midterm elections. What a coinkydink!

You have to hand it to Mark Zuckerberg’s Monster: at least it’s brazen about its attempt to hamstring democracy and censor political voices it doesn’t like. This latest move essentially says, “We have the power, we’ll use it as we like, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it except submit.”

4. “And then they came for Georgetown…Michele Swers, an American Government professor at Georgetown University, quoted the word “nigger” while reading a quote from Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, in reference to the famous Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, according to The Hoya. Students immediately called for her to be punished, even though she warned the class that her discussion of “hate speech” might upset some of them—the sadly immature weenies, I guess. After Swers read the quote in a Zoom session, students began to send horrified messages using Zoom’s chat function. Swers responded that although the quote is racially offensive, it has value in an academic context. Then she began groveling.

“I should certainly apologize for it,” Swers said in the next class. “I myself am uncomfortable using that language. But I feel from an educational standpoint that I owe it to you all to try and lay out these issues.” And she did apologize, rendering her useless, indeed complicit in The Great Stupid.

I have no sympathy for her, and the many who have followed this script. Until professors stand against these effort to police speech, the enemies of free expression and open discourse will only get stronger, and demand more concessions.

Mirka Sosa, a student in Swers’ class, told The Hoya, “Professor Swers, as a white person should not say that word at all. This incident was very harmful to many students, especially students of color in this class, and I do not feel like she took full accountability for that.” Oh yeah? Harmful how, exactly?

Sosa sent a bias complaint to the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, formally notifying the Georgetown administration of the incident. Then the professor did her North Korean prisoner of war imitation, emailing,

“While I indicated at the beginning of class that you may find the material on free speech to be offensive and upsetting to hear, by reading from the Supreme Court’s Brandenburg decision, I clearly failed in my goal of creating a class climate where all can express their views in a safe place and learn about and discuss complex and difficult issues.As this language is painful to you, it is also painful to me. I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the pain this has caused you, my students.”

No job should be worth debasing yourself like that, and crawling to your abusers.

And where are the Georgetown Law professors with courage and integrity willing to defend the professor and the ability to quote from historical documents? I hear crickets.

6 thoughts on “Saturday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 6/5/2020

  1. 4. That’s what I want to know. Isn’t there a single professor in the entire United States with the guts to stand up to this nonsense?

    • I suspect there are many. Because the professor doesn’t back down, the spineless administrators do nothing, and the media buries the story.

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