Ethics zugzwang is a term used on Ethics Alarms to describe situations where there are no ethical options, only unethical ones The origin is the world of chess, which uses the German word zugzwang to indicate a game position in which a player is safe from checkmate as long as he or she doesn’t move. But of course, a player has to do something; time cannot be stopped in place. In ethics zugzwang, and resolution is a bad one.
The current controversy over the suicide of Jeffrey Smith, a D. C. Metropolitan Police Department police officer who confronted the mob in the Capitol on January 6 and shot himself nine days later, is a perfect example of ethics zugzwang in our ugly political environment. Smith’s widow Erin is convinced that his death was caused by the riot, she says, and will petition the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to designate her husband’s suicide as a death in the line of duty. “When my husband left for work that day, he was the Jeff that I knew,” Ms. Smith said in an interview. “When he returned after experiencing the event, being hit in the head, he was a completely different person. I do believe if he did not go to work that day, he would be here and we would not be having this conversation.” Of course, she is welcome to believe whatever she chooses. Having her husband’s death ruled as occurring in the line of duty also carries with it substantial financial benefits. Confirmation bias is unavoidable.
Yes, I guess this is the sixth post related to the Simone Biles controversy. Isaac’s Comment of the Day elaborates on one of the many reasons this episode bothered me so much and continues to, especially as the excuses and rationalizations for Biles’ conduct appear to be taking over the “narrative” in the absence of what I consider persuasive facts and arguments. The next ugly shoe to drop, I predict, will be when the female American gymnast who won a gold in Tokyo gets endorsement contracts in preference to the “Greatest of All Time” who somehow couldn’t access that greatness when the spotlight was on, and chose not to try. The preference for the winner over the “hero” will be attributed to malign influences. Just wait.
Giving women appropriate power and influence in American culture has been generally beneficial to all, but the ascension of traditional female virtues has had the unfortunate effect of diluting some of the the very values that allowed the United States to come into existence and succeed over the centuries. The disastrous handling of the pandemic has been one example of how this development is not an unalloyed good, and the fact that Biles’ conduct is not merely greeted with sympathy, which is nice, but praise, which is offensive, is another.
America used to be associated with very masculine qualities: toughness, stoicism, risk-taking. This reputation did not exclude American women. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Calamity Jane, Amelia Earhart.
It’s easy to point out the Generation X and millennials’ glaring lack of these qualities, but to me it’s their parents who steered America wrong. Specifically every boomer who jumped on the socialist bandwagon and participated in the 1960s and 70s revolutions against marriage, Christianity, monogamy, patriotism, sobriety, and hard work. The ones who think Woodstock was some kind of beautiful, transformative event. The ones who wax nostalgic about the “Summer of Love” when their poorly-raised grandkids turn chunks of Seattle into murder-dystopias. The generation that necessitated the invention of the term “latch-key kid” to describe their neglected children.
So I perused Simone Biles’ Wikipedia page, and, sure enough…in and out of foster care…abandoned by Mom…no Dad ever in the picture. Showed incredible talent that was her ticket to a secure future, only to be one of the gymnasts sexually exploited by serial abuser and boomer Larry Nassau. Diagnosed with ADHD; currently on medication. These are the symptoms of growing up in a world created by the values of the 60s and 70s. We can mock them for not knowing how to talk to girls, change a tire, be in a stable relationship, or cope with stress…but these are things people learn from their dads, their faith, and their stable community of neighbors, extended family, and church. Younger generations were not only not given those things; they were taught they didn’t need them.
I often check multiple websites to see what of ethics significance occurred on given dates. This July 30 isn’t a major ethics day, though the fiasco that resulted in 1864 when the serially incompetent Union General Ambrose Burnside made his third major blunder of the Civil War in the Battle of the Crater carries a crucial leadership lesson that apparently is impossible to learn: don’t give incompetent leaders second (or third) chances to lead.
However, on one of the sites, “This Day in History,” the headline on a note reads, “1976: Caitlyn Jenner wins Olympic decathlon.” That may be politically correct, but it’s cowardly (would the trans activist mob pounce if the event was stated straight?) and absurd on its face. Bruce Jenner won the Olympic decathlon, and it was a men’s event. Caitlyn was, as far as we know, not even a twinkle in his eye. Bruce fathered children after winning the gold; the event and the other events in his life when he was a he were not magically altered by his later transgender journey, like “Back to the Future.”
1 “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias” note of the day. Frequent commenter and invaluable tipster Steve Witherspoon sent me a link to a Jonathan Turley column I had missed. The law professor covers a lot of issues we have discussed here as he notes that “Professional ethics, it seems, has become entirely impressionistic in the age of advocacy journalism.”
It seems? There is no question about it. Turley also points out the hypocrisy of the Times with several examples, writing, “If none of this makes sense to you, that is because it does not have to make sense. Starting with the [Senator Tom] Cotton scandal, the New York Times cut its mooring cables with traditional journalist values. It embraced figures like Nikole Hannah-Jones who have championed advocacy journalism.” He also notes that “while the Times has embraced advocacy journalism, its has not updated its guidelines which state that “Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”
Read it all, and I recommend sending it to any friend or relative who calls assertions that the news media is a left-wing propaganda machine at this point “conservative disinformation.”
I’m sorry, I just feel like the weight of the ethics world is on my shoulders, so I’m going to selflessly leave the ethics commentary to you. I have to think of my well-being first, after all. There is no “U” in team. No, that’s not quite right…
I’m not going to pull a single quote from former gymnast and current ethics corrupter Liukin’s much-praised and shockingly awful letter slobbering all over Simone Biles. The whole thing is revolting, and as riddled with offensive anti-ethics as Sonny Corleone was riddled with bullets. Here it is—I’m going to letter each line for reference.
A. Thank you for showing the depth of who you are beyond an athlete as a leader, role model, mental health warrior, and person.
B. Thank you for epitomizing what the next generation of role models should be.
C. Thank you for creating a safer space for current and future athletes to unequivocally be themselves.
D. Thank you for helping the world realize that prioritizing your physical and mental health is the mark of a true champion.
E. Thank you for illuminating that nobody is defined by the depth of their trophy case, and that you don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself and the pursuit of happiness.
F. Thank you for taking the sport of gymnastics to new heights as the unanimous GOAT. No one will be remembered for any single routine, competition, or medal.
G.You, however, will undeniably be remembered by many for the compassion and bravery shown here in Tokyo.
H.You came here as a gymnast, and you’re leaving as a hero.
Wait, I have to gag…ACK!!PTUI!GGGGACK!
I think it’s past, but as I review this astounding exercise in gaslighting and designating as admirable what isn’t, my gorge may rise again, so you have been warned. Well..
I will state up front that I am confident that this decision will get to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that if and when it does, it will be reversed.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver ruled 2-1 that website designer Lorie Smith and her company, 303 Creative, violated a Colorado law by refusing to create a website celebrating a same sex union. forin a lawsuit filed before the law was used against her. She was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit, who also represented Christian baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. There is a material difference, however, between a cake and a website. A cake is not generally thought of as expression, and there is a colorable argument that a bakery is a public accommodation. But Smith, whose company designs wedding websites, argues that forcing her to make one that supports a same-sex marriage violates her religious beliefs. It isn’t frosting and cake shades at issue, it’s words.
A Colorado public accommodation law bars public accommodations from refusing to provide equal access to services because of sexual orientation. The law’s communication clause also says public accommodations cannot publish any communication indicating that full access to services will not be provided because of sexual orientation. The appeals court majority decreed that neither provision violates Smith’s free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment, even though it acknowledged that Smith’s websites are pure speech that involve her unique creative talents. But, the Court claims, indulging in an “its isn’t what it is” rationalization, Colorado “has a compelling interest in protecting both the dignity interests of members of marginalized groups and their material interests in accessing the commercial marketplace…We agree with the dissent that a diversity of faiths and religious exercise, including appellants’, ‘enriches’ our society…Yet a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in other ways, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or services.”
This opinion is way, way over the traditional judicially-drawn line between compelling public accommodations to be equally accessible to all and compelling artistic expression. Under this theory, a singer who performs at weddings would have to warble at a same-sex ceremony, even if her faith held that such a ceremony was a sin.
I really didn’t plan this. I certainly didn’t plan on having to shackle my arms to prevent myself from expressing the appropriate sentiments after encountering not one but two examples of how ethical ignorance is apparently reaching a new and dangerous high in the United States of America. But my print version of the New York Times contained an op-ed that really “argued” for the proposition above, and the New York Times, allegedly a responsible newspaper, actually felt that such an uninformed, civically illiterate, stupid opinion was worthy of publication.
We are told that the author, Atossa Abrahamian is a journalist “who has written extensively about citizenship,” evidently without understanding what citizenship is. We also are told, “This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment.” Bold! You know, like “Let’s have a monetary system based on cheese!” Or “Let’s select members of Congress by having Beer Pong competitions!”
Note that I still haven’t made any substantive statements rebutting this garbage or explaining why it is the intellectual equivalent of toxic waste. I don’t need to; first, I can count on my almost exclusively intelligent, ethical and erudite readers to do it, and moreover,such sentences as this are res ipsaloquitur…they speak for themselves:
“The strongest case for noncitizen voting today is representation: The more voters show up to the polls, the more accurately elections reflect peoples’ desires”
I have shackled my arms to the wall, and despite a violent desire to join in the fun, I will leave the responses to the offensive “satirical” idiocy above, by some woke “Afro-Latino engineer, writer, and occasional Bruno Mars impersonator” named Carlos Greaves, to you. In the process, consider the degree of indoctrination, ethical confusion, and rationalization poisoning necessary for someone to 1) write this garbage, 2) think it’s worthy of publication except as evidence or societal rot, or 3) read it and think, “By George! What a humorous and perceptive take!”
If you are one of the latter, please post a comment and explain your thinking. Really. I beg of you. I’ll unshackle myself for that.
[Addendum, typed with my nose:If there was any lingering hesitation on my part that I need to add “Walk a mile in his/her shoes” to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List, this obliterated it.]
1. “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling courts!” Here’s another one of those damn courts requiring the government to follow the law. In the opinion here, Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo overturned the San Francisco Unified School District’s decision to remove the 1936 mural by Victor Arnautoff, titled “Life of Washington” from a local high school. (There were slaves pictured. Can’t have that!)
The board was required by law to conduct an environmental and historical review for removing the mural, but just chose to follow the demands of indignant students, despite a process being required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The Board and SFUSD failed in their primary duty to follow the requirements of the law,” Massullo wrote in her decision. “California, as a matter of long-standing public policy, places enormous value on its environmental and historical resources and the People are entitled to expect public officials to give more than lip-service to the laws designed to protect those resources.”
This reminded me of the recent irresponsible Times op-ed by Jamelle Bouie, who has a long rap sheet at Ethics Alarms. Bouie thinks the U.S. Supreme Court needs to be minimized and restrained, because of its nasty habit of interfering with democracy and the will of the public by making the government follow the law, like, say, the U.S. Constitution.
2. Wait, isn’t this systemic racism? And ageism? Classism? Ludditeism? QR codes, those bar codes you can have scanned off a cell phone, have emerged as a nearly unavoidable tech fixture thanks to the pandemic hysteria. Restaurants have adopted them, retailers like CVS and Foot Locker have added them to checkout registers, and they are turning up in retail packaging, direct mail, billboards, sporting events and TV advertisements. They also are a threat to privacy and online security. QR codes can store digital information like when, where and how often a scan occurs, and might open an app or a website that then tracks people’s personal information. But that’s an issue for another day.
I was prevented twice from being able to get a ticket to a baseball game because the Washington Nationals, forced by the D.C. government in its Wuhan panic mode, were required to only have non-paper, contact-less tickets. That meant I had to use my cell phone. I choose not to use cell phones when I’m not traveling. Moreover, how can the same people who decry the requirement of a photo ID as racist mandate systems that require smart phones, which are a whole lot more expensive that any ID? How about poor people? Seniors on a fixed budget? Seniors who can’t get the hang of apps and frankly resent having to do so?
I felt that the feminist hypocrisy allowing Simone Biles to bail on her team when it depended on her as its star and foundation was enough; for once in 20121, the racial angle wasn’t necessary to get into. Am I convinced that if Mary Lou Retton had similarly withdrawn from the Olympics competition because she felt like she had “the weight of the world” on her shoulders she would have also been given a big group hug, near unanimous sympathy and “the King’s Pass”? Yes, I do.