I’m increasingly feeling like it is impossible to distinguish the important and substantive ethics developments from those that are just annoying or depressing. For example, this:
That’s the new Anna May Wong quarter, honoring the Chinese-American actress who joined the Hollywood community during the silent film era. Yes, it’s “historic”: she is the first Asian American to appear on US currency. This is the fifth new coin in the American Women Quarters Program. The others, all appearing in 2022, feature poet and activist Maya Angelou (of course); the first American woman in space, Sally Ride; Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller; and suffragist Nina Otero-Warren.
I don’t really care, but Wong is a trivia answer. She only is getting this honor because of her race. Quick: name a famous Anna May Wong role or film. Hint: There aren’t any. Handing out honors like having one’s image on a quarter based on race alone is racial discrimination. You want important American women on some quarters? Fine: try Eleanor Roosevelt. Abigail Adams. Harriet Beecher Stow. Lillian Hellman. Babe Zacharias. Marion Anderson. Sophy Treadwell. Emily Dickinson. Inventor-Actress Hedy Lamarr. Heck, Julia Child. There are hundreds of women who contributed more to U.S. society and culture than Anna May Wong, but she was the “right” color.
The question is whether this kind of thing is too trivial to bother with, or whether it is another unethical precedent-setting, tiny metaphorical cut.
1. No, John, this isn’t a medical record, and it doesn’t help. In a useful example of how one can convince everyone that he is indeed hiding something, the John Fetterman campaign released a letter by Dr. Clifford Chen saying that the Pennsylvania Democrat running for the open U.S. Senate seat has “significantly improved” following his stroke in May and “can work full duty in public office.” The campaign called this a “medical report” after Fetterman’s refusal to release his health records began being criticized even in the Democratic Party allied news media. “Overall, Lt. Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices. He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” Chen wrote. But Chen, while he is one of Fetterman’s doctors, is a Democratic Party donor and a Fetterman donor as well. That’s a conflict of interest, and a letter from one’s physician is not the equivalent of health records. Why not just release the records? Well, we know why. It’s the same reason that Donald Trump doesn’t release his tax returns.
2. Speaking of the all-time record-holder for getting headlines when a public figure has no office or position whatsoever, Donald Trump announced that if he returns to the White House, he’ll appoint Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to an important position. Great. The consistently absurd and irresponsible far-right Congresswoman visited the Wilder Brigade Monument in Georgia last night, writing later on social media, “Tonight, I stopped at the Wilder monument in Chickamauga, GA, which honors the Confederate soldiers of the Wilder Brigade. … I will always defend our nation’s history!” to claim that the memorial recognizes “Confederate soldiers.” Uh, no. The monument pays tribute to Union troops, John T. Wilder’s unit, later nicknamed the Lightning Brigade, battled the South during the Civil War. Greene may defend our history, but she apparently doesn’t know how to find out what it is.
3. And speaking of unethical Georgia politicians, Stacey Abrams, whose defeat in her race for the State House, if it occurs, might convince me that the universe is just, added another irrelevant and callous rationalization for abortion to the already overflowing bundle of them being tossed like dust into the eyes of the public. Asked in an interview why Democrats are obsessed with abortion, when the public is far more concerned with inflation and the cost of living, Abrams replied,
“Having children is why you’re worried about your price for gas, it’s why you’re concerned about how much food costs. For women, this is not a reductive issue. You can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child. And so these are — it’s important for us to have both-and conversations. We don’t have the luxury of reducing it or separating them out,”
The same calculations presumably apply to children who have survived the gestation stage and are now out of the womb. They just might be too darn expensive to keep alive. Let’s have all those conversations!
4. I’m shocked, shocked, that the Congressional Black Caucus prefers white progressives over black conservatives! The conservative media is enjoying the revelation that campaign finance filings show the Congressional Black Caucus donating $5,000 to Frank Mrvan, a white Democrat, in Indiana’s First Congressional District. despite the fact that he is white and running against Jennifer-Ruth Green, a black Republican. This is allegedly hypocrisy, but it is really the journalism equivalent of dog bites man. The Congressional Black Caucus has always been an arm of the Democratic Party, and in its eyes, blacks like Green might as well be white. Wait, what did I just write?
5. Today’s evidence that the Left really, really doesn’t like the First Amendment: “We Should Try to Prevent Another Alex Jones.” a New York Times op-ed by NYT opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci. Read this thing. She dances around it, but the only way to stop assholes like Alex Jones from abusing their First Amendment rights and spreading lies in print, online and over airwaves is to restrict free speech, with good, right and wise people like her as the arbiters of what can be said. Naturally, this being the Times, she ties dumb conspiracy theorist Jones—how many people really believed his claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, and are they allowed to use forks when the eat?—to Donald Trump, January 6, Fox News, Wuhan virus vaccine skeptics and male hormones….you know, eeeeevil. She writes in part,
Rather than pursuing legally dubious and inadvisable efforts to ban speech or define and target misinformation, regulations should target the incentives for and the speed with which lies can be spread, amplified and monetized.
One part of the solution might be to target reckless data surveillance online, by greatly limiting how much data can be collected, how long it can be retained, what it can be used for and how it can be traded. Among other benefits, this could make chasing engagement less attractive as a business model.
There could also be new, careful versions of the Fairness Doctrine — which required mass broadcasters that essentially held a monopoly on the public sphere to present broader viewpoints on topics of public importance. It wasn’t a perfect solution, and it could be weaponized, but it recognized that good speech can confront bad speech only if there is access to the same audiences. Versions for the 21st century might involve a requirement that when blatant or harmful lies on issues of public importance are amplified, the people who are sent those lies are also sent corrections and further explanations.
In other words, she wants legally dubious and inadvisable efforts to ban speech or define and target misinformation, packaged in ways that the Left might get away with. The “solution” for divisive, unethical liars like Alex Jones is for gullible, lazy members of the public to be responsible and learn how to apply critical thinking.
What’s the solution to the lies and misinformation spread by the New York Times?