Good “Misinformation” vs. Bad “Misinformation”

AOC tweet deaths

I was hit between the eyes by another example of this hypocrisy this morning, when I read the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Times. A reader named Roger Hirschberg—yes, own it Roger, you shameless propagandist—authored a letter that the Times headlined “Facebook Misinformation.” In the first paragraph, Roger decries Facebook policies that “enable and protect misinformation.” In the very next sentence, he condemns Facebook management for allowing such misinformation “in pursuit of profits,” and cites Facebook’s entries related to “the January 6 insurrection.”

Isn’t that amusing? Roger puffs himself up like a bullfrog in indignation over a communications company pandering to the mob while cashing in, and then gives the Times a chance to do the same, allowing his false characterization of the Capitol riot as an “insurrection,” because that’s the current Big Lie being weaponized by the Left.

Now, I wouldn’t want the Times to censor Roger’s deliberate misinformation—the FBI, if one considers it trustworthy, has definitively debunked that description, as did Merrick Garland in last weeks hearings—because we benefit from revelations with signature significance: if you call the riot an “insurrection,” you’re a lie-spreading jerk or a lazy fool who believes whatever your favorite party tells you. I would expect an ethical publication that respects its readers to acknowledge Roger’s hypocrisy if it chooses to publish his letter, however. If it doesn’t, then the Times is deliberately advancing misinformation….but then it’s the good kind. You know: the kind that can be used to smear Donald Trump and Republicans. Thanks, Roger!

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Ethics Observations On Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)’s Mask While On The House Floor

Brandon Mask

1 This isn’t funny, ethical, brave or helpful. He should be sanctioned, but House Democrats wouldn’t dare. They know what their members got away with.

2. If Duncan wants to say “Fuck Joe Biden” on the House floor, then let him come out and say it and accept the consequences. At least I can have a measure of respect for that, though not much. Adults snickering at the “Let’s Go Brandon” game remind me of those camp songs like “Shaving cream” or “Helen had a Steamboat” where it was supposed to be hilarious that you never actually said the naughty word that rhymed. The game was just barely tolerable among ten-year-olds, and we have members of Congress who act like this? Be proud, America.

3. The Ethics Alarms position (which cost it about 40% of its readers since 2017) that the office of the President must be accorded a basic level of respect and fairness by the public must apply regardless of who is in the White House, or our republic does not work. One reason I was so critical of the despicable treatment of President Trump across the culture was precisely for this reason: I knew Republicans and conservatives wouldn’t be able resist treating Biden as unethically as Trump was treated, and, if possible, worse.

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Nomination For The Double Standards And Hypocrisy Hall of Fame…

Stace Abrams 2

Stacey Abrams!

It is amazing how frequently the mainstream media states that President Trump’s assertion that he won the 2020 election is a “lie.” It’s not a lie: he believes it, and there are some good reasons to believe it, though stating it as a fact is irresponsible, but you know: Trump. The widespread use of mail-in ballots automatically creates a rebuttable presumption of fraud: when someone other than the voter can fill out a ballot and the vote is still counted, then someone other than the voter WILL fill out a ballot; the only question is how many. Since Democrats tried one unethical route to getting Trump after another for four years, it’s completely reasonable for him to wonder if the election was fixed, with or without evidence.

But I digress. The point is that Trump’s insistence that the Presidency was stolen has been condemned roundly by Democrats and the news media, as well as many Republicans. And yet at a campaign rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Democratic candidate for Governor Terry McAuliffe was accompanied by unsuccessful Georgia gubernatorial Stacey Abrams and said that she “would be the governor of Georgia today had the governor of Georgia not disenfranchised 1.4 million Georgia voters before the election. That’s what happened to Stacey Abrams. They took the votes away.” Then Abrams repeated her claim that she has made since she lost in 2018: “I come from a state where I was not entitled to become the governor, but as an American citizen and a citizen of Georgia, I’m going to fight for every person who has the right to vote to be able to cast that vote” as McAuliffe nodded approvingly.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/26/2021: The Alarms Just Aren’t Ringing…

alarm-clock destruction

I am no longer inclined to be charitable or passive about the facemask nonsense. Yesterday I accompanied my sister to a clinic and waited while she had a medical procedure, requiring me to sit a couple of hours. The waiting room had enforced “social distancing” (though we now know that’s arbitrary), and there was no one closer to me than ten feet anyway, because only four other people were in the room, all much younger than me, and all vaccinated (I asked). However, when I took off my mostly useless mask (which was paper—I was handed it when I entered) because I was reading a court document and my glasses were fogging up,the woman behind the counter gestured to me that I had to put my mask back on. That did it: I jumped out of my chair and asked why. “It’s our policy,” was her non-explanation.

But why is it your policy? Nobody’s near me. I’m fully vaccinated. I’m not talking to anyone. I have to wait here, and I can’t read or breathe with this thing on,” I asked, not hiding my pique.

“We’re just trying to be careful,” she said. Now I had her! “Really?” I said. “Then why is the young woman three feet from you wearing the mask under her nose?” (I had noticed that when I checked in.) The cheater quickly pulled it into position and turned towards me in a silent “”Mask out of place? What mask out of place?” gesture. The first woman then repeated, “It’s policy. We don’t make policy.”

“You don’t make policy, you just enforce policy you can’t explain or justify even though you’re the sole representatives here for us to question. Okay. I’ll be sitting outside.” And I picked up a chair and left.

I didn’t even bother to mention that the two staffers I could see through the door to the room adjoining the space behind the counter weren’t wearing masks and were giggling about two feet from each other.

I did say “Morons!” audibly as I left.

1. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the unethical tree…The oldest Trump son, Donald Jr., is promoting the $27.99 T-shirt below on his official site.

Baldwin T

Anyone wearing or endorsing such apparel is signaling to the part of the world that isn’t vicious, vindictive and full of hate for vocal progressives that such an individual doesn’t believe in the Golden Rule, civility, or basic decency. Yeah, it’s funny in an extremely nasty way, and I wouldn’t advocate censoring it or banning a Netflix routine in which the comedian said the same thing. But Donald Trump’s spawn isn’t Dave Chappelle, and as a political statement, which the slogan on the shirt is, that line is below the belt..much like much of the criticism that was aimed at Don Jr.’s father, and yes, by Baldwin among others. Still, that’s not how a society makes public discourse better or defuses division and hate. It just feels good.

Jake Tapper of CNN opined that Baldwin deserves “basic decency” from Republicans. No, he doesn’t deserve decency; he deserves to be treated with exactly the same callousness as the arrogant, wise-ass thug treated Donald Trump specifically and conservatives in general for decades. Society, however, not only deserves civil discourse but needs it. (Not that anyone who represents CNN, a prime offender, isn’t estopped from calling for fairness for the foreseeable future.)

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Vermont Law School’s Craven Art Censorship

Slavery mural

In 1993, artist Sam Kerson painted a mural depicting the progression of American slavery from the slave trade through to the Underground railroad. “The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave” celebrates “the efforts of black and white Americans in Vermont and throughout the United States to achieve freedom and justice,” as Kerson explains on his website. Here’s the second panel of the artwork…

Kerson Panel two

Funded by a grant from the Puffin Foundation, the mural was mounted at the Chase Community Center at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont. African-American students had periodically taken offense at the artist’s style, and that reaction became a substantial movement after a white cop with a history of equal-opportunity bullying in Minneapolis managed to contribute to the death of a criminal resisting arrest who happened to be black. Naturally, this immediately affected what kind of art could be exhibited in public. I’m not being sarcastic: that’s what happened, as bizarre as it is.

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Ugh. Donald Trump’s New Social Media Site Is Just As You Would Have Expected

Truth Social

Careless and incoherent.

I keep expecting Donald Trump to surprise me (in a good way) but my anticipation is regularly dashed. The most recent example is Trump’s new “TRUTH Social” platform, his response to the censorship of the Big Tech platforms that have censored him and others based on thinly-veiled partisan motives.

An ethical platform to counter their abuse of open discourse and support of biased journalism is greatly needed, and Trump, one would think, has the resources and connections to create a good one.

One would think.

But, as usual, the former President can’t get out of his own way, and also as usual, has failed to hire “the best people” he once boasted about. For example, The Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) appears to have violated a license agreement by taking the code of the decentralized social network Mastodon and neglecting to abide by its terms. Software Freedom Conservancy, a non-profit that enforces free and open-source software licenses, said even Trump must comply with the Affero General Public License (or AGPLv3). A condition of the APGLv3 is that every user can receive the complete corresponding source for the website based on that code. Truth Social violated that provision by referring to its services as “proprietary.”

It’s probably just a mistake, but this platform can’t afford mistakes, because it has no good will, no wiggle room, no ability to be given the benefit of the doubt by the hoard of critics waiting to pounce. Trump’s platform is like Jackie Robinson: it has to be perfect, because the knives are already out. No, it’s not fair, but that’s reality, and Trump, of all people, must know it. It is stunningly incompetent to make unforced errors….except that’s what Trump does.

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October 25 Is One Of The Really Bad Ethics Dates

This one is so bad that it warrants a special post. The only thing benign about the 25th is that almost no historical villains have it for a birthday, which is odd. Only Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbi, aka “The Butcher of Lyon,” born on this date in 1913, fits the bill, unless you are inclined to be harsh on East German Olympic swimmer, Cornelia Ender (born 10/25/1958), who became one of the symbols of the Soviet bloc’s cheating by shooting up its female athletes with steroids. I’m not, since it seems clear that she was a victim.

The events that took place on this date, however, could sustain an ethics tome, so as I am fond of quoting Willy Loman’s wife, Linda (actually Arthur Miller), “Attention must be paid”:

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) has been referenced here more than any other milestone on this date, because it is one of the prime examples of how hierarchies, cultures and bureaucracies often do evil, destructive, stupid or disastrous things because nobody has the courage to stand up and scream, “STOP! This is crazy!” despite the fact that almost everyone in the chain of command knows it’s crazy. This was the phenomenon examined in historian Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly.” In the now-legendary charge, Lord James Cardigan led the Light Brigade cavalry in a frontal attack against well-defended Russian artillery during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. It snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as the saying goes.The British were winning when Cardigan received a mistaken order to attack the Russians. It was obviously a terrible idea, but he charged on anyway down a valley and his cavalry was shot to pieces by the heavy Russian guns, suffering 40 percent casualties. Lord Cardigan, who survived the battle, was hailed as a national hero in Britain. No, he wasn’t. A real hero would have had the integrity and competence to refuse the order.

The Teapot Dome Scandal (1929) started getting its just desserts when Albert B. Fall, President Harding’s Secretary of the Interior was found found guilty on this date of accepting a bribe in the form of a $100,000 interest-free “loan” from Edward Doheny of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, who wanted Fall to grant his firm a valuable oil lease in the Elk Hills naval oil reserve in California. That site, along with the Teapot Dome naval oil reserve in Wyoming, was transferred to the control of the Department of the Interior as part of the criminal machinations of Fall, a corrupt crony of the 20th President. one of many. Fall realized the personal gains he could achieve by leasing the land to private corporations. He became the first Cabinet member in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime while in office.

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From The “I Don’t Understand This At All” Files…

Dem classroom ad

The Glenn Youngkin campaign—he’s the Republican running for governor of Virginia–has been circulating this campaign sign for McAuliffe, endorsing the statement that the Democratic candidate made in a televised debate that has his poll numbers in a freefall. (What McAuliffe said was “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”)

Could this possibly be a Democratic party-approved sign? I wondered if it was a “false flag” by the Republicans. The message contradicts what McAuliffe has been saying in recent days about supporting active parental involvement in public school education.

If the sign is genuine, what kind of person would approve of such a message? It’s stunning what goes on in some classrooms, everything from child abuse to mis-instruction to indoctrination. Parents who don’t monitor how and what their children are taught are irresponsible and negligent; it’s as simple as that.

Could the Democrats in Virginia be this stupid? How is that possible?

Why I’m Skipping My College Class Reunion…

Harvard strike

I already noted here that I would not attend my 50th College reunion next year because my alma mater has repeatedly embarrassed me, causing me to (literally) turn my diploma to the wall. I wrote an explanation for my boycott for my class’s reunion book, which will be published in 2022. Some of you asked that I post what I wrote. Here it is…

***

This is a depressing report to write. My family was always besotted with Harvard. We lived in Arlington, Mass., a short bus ride from Harvard Square. My father, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. (the Greater) graduated from the College after WWII on the GI Bill. He met my mother on campus, waving to the young Greek beauty looking at him from her office window in Mass Hall, where she was a secretary. My sister, Edith Marshall ’74 and I both attended the College after my mother returned to work there, eventually becoming the Asst. Dean of Housing.Despite all Harvard has meant to me and my family over the decades, and despite all of the special friends I long to see again, I won’t be attending the class reunion.

The university has repeatedly embarrassed and angered me over the last decade (and before), causing me to turn my diploma face to the wall. The school has become a hyper-partisan, ideologically extreme institutional shill, less devoted to educating its students and upholding its role model status than to following progressive cant regardless of the consequences or the core values trashed in the process.

I’m a professional ethicist these days, having finally abandoned the other half of my career as a stage director (The American Century Theater, 1995-2015, RIP). Most of my work is in legal ethics as a trainer and consultant. Thus I was horrified when, in 2019, Harvard’s Dean of the College announced the firing of Prof. Ronald Sullivan as Winthrop House faculty dean because he was defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution. The Winthrop House students ignorantly declared Sullivan insufficiently virtuous, but instead of using the episode to teach them (and others) what lawyers are ethically required to do, the dean joined the sit-in protest calling for his removal. To be clear about how wrong this was, by firing Sullivan, Harvard was endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. From the Massachusetts Bar’s ethics rules (I taught the Rules section of the introductory and mandatory course for new bar admittees)…

“Rule 1.2 (b): A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.”

This is a crucial principle. Fair trials and our criminal justice system depend on it; it is embodied in the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. But Harvard students found the principle insufficiently “woke,” and the college agreed. The fact that Harvard undergrads haven’t learned the importance of guaranteeing all citizens legal representation, and the fact that Harvard hasn’t taught it, apparently because its own leadership doesn’t agree with the principle itself, indicates that Harvard has devolved into more of a left-wing indoctrination machine than a liberal arts college.

That was the proverbial last straw, but there was much more before and since. Harvard’s announcement that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s was unconscionable. Before that, the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was the students’ choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. Harvard joined other venal institutions with lesser resources to refuse tuition refunds to students robbed of in-person teaching and the campus experience during the pandemic lockdown—odd, since I distinctly recall being told in orientation that it was the contact with other students, midnight bull sessions and extra-curricular activities (like my beloved Gilbert and Sullivan Players) that provided the real value in attending Harvard (and they were).

There are many more such betrayals on my list, but describing them all would be as tedious for you as it is upsetting for me.

Dad died in his sleep in 2009, exactly the way he wanted to go. I found him in his favorite chair. It was my birthday, and I will always suspect that my father thought of his timing as a good joke. It was a gift, really: he had just started to show his age (at 89), and he was determined not to ever burden Mom or his family. My mother never recovered from losing the love of her life, and died almost a year to the day of my father’s magnificent funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, with all the honors due to a Silver Star recipient. They are both resting there now, not far from my Alexandria home where I live with my wonderful wife Grace and, in a downstairs apartment, my 26-year-old son Grant, who does what he knew he wanted to do from childhood: he’s an auto mechanic and tech. I, in contrast, never could decide what to do with my life.

To Dave, Skip, Nels, Dick, Dennis, Mike, Howie, Greg (Thanks again), Ollie, and so many others, I have missed you, and wish I could come to Cambridge.

I just can’t do it.