Morning Ethics Warm-Up: April Really Is The Cruelest Month…

What awful ethics stories have happened in April!

Today, for example, we note the anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, south of Denver, in 1999. At approximately 11:19 a.m., Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, dressed in trench coats, began shooting students outside the school before moving inside. Klebold and Harris murdered 12 fellow students and a teacher, while wounding 23 more. Then they killed themselves. The tragedy opened the chapter of school shootings for the nation and the culture, inspiring other maniacs, began the devolution of high schools into fortresses, and galvanized anti-Second Amendment activism. As is now routine, the news media distorted the tale to its own needs. For example, it was initially reported that one female student was asked by one of the shooter if she believed in God. When she said, “Yes,” she was shot to death. It was an inspiring human interest tale that led her parents to author a Christianity-centered book titled “She Said Yes,” while Klebold and Harris were pigeon-holed as anti-Christian bigots. We now know the question asked of another student who had already been shot. When that victim answered “Yes,” the shooter walked away. Nah, makes the killers seem less evil. “Print the legend.”

1. More “Mikado” political correctness desecration (and another reason to boycott my reunion). The Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan Players (which I and four other students saved from collapsing in 1971), rewrote the script of G&S’s greatest operetta, they claimed, “to avoid featuring Japanese stereotypes and racist interpretations.” The new plot is about, I kid you not, goat-herding in a future Chinese-dominated London. As a director, I applaud and encourage creative efforts to re-interpret classics, but to presume to improve upon Gilbert by a wholesale re-write is the height of hubris.

I would also expect an organization that has interpreted the works of the brilliant Victorian team since the 1920s to be able to explain to the knee-jerk cultural revolutionaries that there is nothing “racist” about “The Mikado,” which is a still funny satire on Victorian British society, set in a typical Gilbertian fantasy-land where characters behave absurdly, but oddly logically.

I would expect that, but I would be tragically wrong. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

2. Mask ethics update!

  • By now you know that a federal judge struck down the CDC’s transportation mask mandate, for the rather obvious reason that it didn’t have the power or authority to inflict it without going through the proper steps, which it did not. It doesn’t matter whether the rule is wise or not: lawmaking and rulemaking still have to follow due process. The Left no longer believes that, as we have seen repeatedly in recent years, notably in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates debate, when Joe Biden was chided (by Kamala Harris among others) for rejecting a policy that he viewed as illegal.
  • Here is the New York Times headline this morning: “Masks Ditched To Jeers, Fears And Confusion.” That’s deliberate obfuscation: the most reported reaction on board planes to the announcement of the mask requirement’s demise was cheers. (The Times resorted to a fairer headline on its website.)
  • A telling snippet from the article: “Brooke Tansley, who was flying with two children too young to be vaccinated, said she felt scared as the passengers around her slipped off their masks. “All I could do was hope it’s going to be OK,” she said.” This is what two years of media fearmongering, political hyperbole and CDC incompetence has done to gullible and vulnerable Americans, and it will take longer to recover from this than the pandemic.
  • Broadway, meanwhile, is still making its audiences mask up to watch unmasked performers (except in “Phantom of the Opera,” of course). Anyone who would pay 100 bucks or more for a ticket to sit in discomfort, glasses fogging up, in unregulated cloth masks that are mostly useless is….well, I guess he or she is a rich progressive, which is who Broadway caters to. This edict is, I assert, more political than health-related.

Live theater is on the endangered species of entertainment list, and professional theater is in denial.

  • This relates to the previous post about the intellectual limitations of journalists…here is Slate journalist Mark Stern’s brilliant analysis:

Experts! You know, those health officials who said, in dizzying combinations, “masks not needed,” “wear masks,” “no masks if vaccinated,” “Masks don’t really do much good,” and “Never mind masks if you’re rioting for social justice, but better wear them at weddings.” Judges, meanwhile exist, and are trained, and are by definition experts in what is legal and what is not, no matter who appointed them, or how old they are.

3. Here is all you need to know about the wisdom of getting involved in cryptocurrency: Jordan Belfort, the stock scamster and incurable Fick who was amusingly profiled in Scorcese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” has reinvented himself (again), this time as a cryptocurrency guru. Belfort has openly attributed his ability to con and steal to the amazing gullibility of the greedy, and he keeps proving how right he is. Anyone who is fooled by his latest scheme deserves exactly what they get.

4. And now for something completely stupid...I’ve been holding on to this head-exploder for months, and I want it out of my sight. In a feature last fall on “bold” and creative new ideas to make the U.S. better, Lyman Stone, a demographer who specializes in family policy, argued that we should have no age requirement on voting, and should allow children to vote. I read it twice looking for the tip-off that it was satire. He was apparently serious, writing such twaddle as “The voting age should be “at birth,” and parents should be able to provide whatever degree of assistance is necessary to enable their children to have their interests represented. That a child is too young to speak or walk is no argument against child voting, since many other nonverbal, immobile people who need daily assistance are also allowed to vote.” His argument is a collection of rationalizations (“If we allow this dumb practice, why not allow this one?”) and sophistry. It was irresponsible of the Times to publish such mind-rot; by doing so, it was giving credibility to a bad idea that deserves non. Moreover, really terrible ideas do real damage. They are like contagions, and there are millions of stupid people who hear or read one and think, “Hey! Great! Let’s do it!” This one isn’t even a close call, or shouldn’t be.

Then again, ten years ago I could not have imagined Disney advocating the teaching of sex-change option to 5 year-olds….

5. Once again, allowing group-pandering to wag the dog and distort communication… The Great Stupid strikes again! Students at California State University, Fullerton, who fall below a 2.0 grade point average this semester will no longer be put on academic probation, because the term is too mean, or something. Failing students will now be placed on “academic notice,” though it will signify exactly the same thing: if your grades don’t improve, you’re in big trouble.

University officials instituted the euphemism primarily to make potential flunk-outs of color feel better about themselves. The school feels the word “probation” had a negative connotation and feed into stereotypes of criminality, as it evoked law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

I wonder how many students will flunk out because they got a gentle nudge to avoid making them feel inadequate rather than the metaphorical slap in the face they needed to motivate them? [Pointer: Curmie]

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: April Really Is The Cruelest Month…

  1. Re # 5: But if any student should say something that hurts another’s feelings, they’ll be put on double secret probation.
    Jack: I’d love to see your “This day in ethics” appear as a book!

  2. Jack:

    Years ago (early 90’s when he was starting out), Rush Limbaugh said that his goal was to “illustrate absurdity by being absurd”. The Mikado is the PERFECT example of this… I mean, who can take seriously a character of a pseudo-government official that is the “Lord High Everything Else”.
    Cheers, Mike

  3. On 2, I actually have some limited sympathy for people who were upset that the airlines announced the repeal of the mandate mid-flight. Regardless of value judgements (frankly, I agree, those people were lied into being more afraid than they reasonably should be, but…), the fact of the matter is that some people feel strongly about masking, and they thought that they were buying a ticket on an airline that required masking. They very well might not have bought the ticket otherwise. I can’t think of many similes for this kind of captive bait-and-switch, but I think that’s what it amounts to, and it seems rude.

    All that said, I fully admit I don’t have a better solution. There were going to be people on their phones or watching the news, seeing the mandate come down in real time, and not making any announcement would have just led to more confusion. Maybe an announcement that the mandate was still in effect for the flight? Or maybe a pre-flight notice that in the even of a decision, the airline would comply with the ruling in real time?

    • Yes, I agree. My particular stance on the mask issue seems pretty irrelevant to the people who bought their tickets with the promise of the mandate should not have been put in that situation mid fight (looks like a bait and switch). At that point, they no longer had a choice in the matter. They should have said, until we have official confirmation from the industry (after all it would have still been up to them) we are going to leave them in place.

    • Agreed, HT.
      Of course the majority of passengers cheered the ruling. But there are qualitative as well as quantitative concerns here, and it’s clear the airlines didn’t think about the consequences of their reversal without warning.

  4. Today is Hitler’s birthday, but that in itself has no ethical content. It’s what he did as an adult that can be judged ethically. His parents had no way to know how he would turn out.

  5. I think my response to Michael Ejercito got eaten. So, trying again
    Hitler’s parents had no way to know how he would turn out. So his birthday has no ethical impact apart from those who celebrate it now because of what Hitler did as an adult.

  6. #2. I have a son who is an airline captain. He became aware of the situation on masks about an hour before leaving the gate on his flight from Chicago. By that time the news was spreading through O’Hare as it was elsewhere. Aboard his aircraft the flight attendants were in a “WTF do we do?” mode. He made a simple announcement that the mask rule has been rescinded and passengers can choose to wear or not wear a mask (By the way they do not wear masks on the flight deck). Airborn he was notified that his airline (Delta) made masks optional for the crew. A quick call to his flight crew giving them the choice to mask up or not. As far as the passengers there were load cheers on this.

  7. The left has a weird expertise fetish, but it’s not really about expertise. They want people who are experts who will agree with them. There was actually a lot of disagreement in the medical community during COVID-19. There was a very fierce minority that argued against lockdowns, panicking, etc.

    How many people have even heard of the Great Barrington Declaration?

    Anyway. For all the hysterics about the lack of critical thinking and education among Trump supporters, the left doesn’t really now what critical thinking is. Critical thinking is “not” just reading expert consensus, believing it, and then pummeling people who don’t buy the consensus, but that’s the left’s current strategy. And if there isn’t the consensus they want, they will bully and threaten to make sure that consensus is established.

  8. Extra Flavor:

    The City of Littleton, CO sits on the west end of Arapahoe County and is the county seat. To the west lies Jefferson County. Littleton Public Schools is one district in Arapahoe County and has 3 high schools: Littleton, Heritage, and Arapahoe. Columbine High School is a part of Jefferson County Schools. So why do we say Columbine in Littleton, Colorado? Well, because Littleton Post Office is the designation for all of the unincorporated suburbs in the southwest of Denver. So if you meet someone that says they’re from Littleton, Colorado – it’s appropriate to ask them if they’re from Littleton or the City of Littleton.

    Second – why do we say Columbine opened a chapter of school shootings? Is it because there was security footage broadcast by local news? The shooting at Westside Middle School near Jonesboro, Arkansas occurred 1 year earlier on March 24, 1998. 4 students and 1 teacher were killed and 9 students and 1 teacher were wounded.

    Now in getting those basic facts correct, we see that Mitchell Johnson was released on his 21st birthday in 2005 while Andrew Golden was released on his 21st birthday in 2007.

    Golden got married, had a kid, and was killed in a car crash in 2019.

    Johnson has been arrested multiple times, incarcerated again, released again, and arrested again. He may currently be incarcerated.

    Anywho…Klebold and Harris of Columbine fame are still dead. No coming back from that.

  9. Re 2, Broadway:

    A good friend of mine from high school flew to New York last weekend, and had about $2000 worth of tickets for musicals. She checked a week earlier and it turned out here daughter would not be allowed in without a vaccine card (which she couldn’t get because not all countries have approved the shot for children). Got reimbursed the full amount, but I wonder if that’s the sort of luxury theatres should take these days.

  10. You can read transcripts of the videotapes made by both Colombine shooters. They WERE extreme anti-Christian bigots, much more so than was even alleged by the press. Hating Christians was at the core of most of their rants to the camera, and a central part of their reasoning for their rampage.

    Audio can be found online for one section in which they mock various Christian classmates, one of whom was their first victim, whom they seemed to directly seek out. From the transcripts:
    KLEboLD: I don’t like you, Rachel and Jen, you’re stuck up little bitches, you’re fucking little . . . Christian, Godly little whores!
    HArris: Yeah . . . “I love Jesus! I love Jesus!” — shut the fuck up! KLEboLD: What would Jesus do? What the fuck would I do?
    [Klebold acts like he’s shooting the camera with his hand, with sound to accompany it.]
    HArris: I would shoot you in the motherfucking head! Go Romans! Thank God they crucified that asshole.
    HArris AND KLEboLD: Go Romans! Go Romans! Yeah! Wooo!
    They also believed themselves to be higher-evolved, more intelligent humans, in part because of their atheism. One of them made a custom t-shirt for the rampage, having written “Natural Selection” in market on it. The design was copied by another young shooter in a future incident.

    From Harris’ notebook: “YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE!!?

    —Natural SELECTION!!!!! God damn its the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak orginisms……..but its all natural!”
    “ fuck mercy fuck justic fuck morals fuck civilized fuck rules fuck laws… DIE manmade words…people think they apply to everything when they dont/cant. theres no such thing as True Good or True Evil, its all relative to the observer. its just all nature, chemistry, and math. deal with it.”

    Almost every page of Klebokd’s journal had some reference to his belief that he was a “god” and the only master.

    I can understand why you would come away with the impression that the killers’ targeting Christians was overblown, because, to my surprise, most big media features about Columbine also downplay it. It they do so dishonestly. The media seemed more focused on a misunderstanding of the exact circumstances of Bernal’s death than they were in the fact that both killers were insulting Christianity and mocking Christians throughout the rampage.

    • It’s not a big deal, but as you will see below, I never said or implied that “the impression that the killers’ targeting Christians was overblown.” I said the news media distorted the tale for its own purposes, which in this case was to find some courageous human interest stories while making the killers sound as vicious as possible….not that either was necessary.

      “As is now routine, the news media distorted the tale to its own needs. For example, it was initially reported that one female student was asked by one of the shooter if she believed in God. When she said, “Yes,” she was shot to death. It was an inspiring human interest tale that led her parents to author a Christianity-centered book titled “She Said Yes,” while Klebold and Harris were pigeon-holed as anti-Christian bigots. We now know the question asked of another student who had already been shot. When that victim answered “Yes,” the shooter walked away.”

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