“If Someone Like Myka Stauffer Can Be A Paid ‘Influencer,’ What Does It Take NOT To Be Influential?” And Other Mysteries Of The 21st Century

Quick: guess which kid they “rehomed”….

Here’s a another one: What the hell am I doing wrong?

Myka Stauffer is a so-called “online influencer,” meaning that she has such a huge following on social media that companies pay her to promote their products. Apparently being a social influencer has nothing to do with being smart, wise, ethical or a benefit to society. We know that because such wastes of DNA like the Kardashians are paid influencers—imagine making life decisions based on the recommendations of Kyie Jenner—but at least they have a TV show and have also demonstrated the ability to become rich with no discernible talent whatsoever.  That’s something, at least.

Stauffer is a much bigger mystery. I read a profile of her, and am still flummoxed. She has around 700,000 YouTube followers and 200,000 Instagram followers because…why? Her mother had her when she was 16. “I got to go to some really cool parties [and] I got to go to a bunch of concerts, which is a perk of having younger parents,” she says. Otherwise  her childhood was “basic, regular,”  and she loved everything about it until her mom told  her that her  dad was not her biological father.  “The next day I lost my virginity. I had planned to save myself for marriage. It wasn’t even a question in my mind,” says Stauffer. “When my identity was flipped upside down, everything went out the window.” Then she was grounded for an entire year as punishment, which gave her “lot of opportunity for self-growth.”  Then Stauffer found religion…oh, never mind, you can read the whole banal story here if your sock drawer is in order. Her second husband is a car detailer, and she’s a vegan. And an inexplicably large, gullible audience of infantilized women with empty lives and the brain pans of grackles look to her for guidance about what to wear and buy.

This is the quality of character they now know they can expect: After documenting on YouTube and Instagram her successful efforts to adopt an autistic little boy, she and her husband decided to “rehome” him,  using the term typically reserved for rotten pet owners who decide to get rid of a  dog or cat. It’s a euphemism, of course. What she is doing is giving away her son, because he’s just too much darn trouble if you’re going to get all those Instagram posts and videos out. Continue reading

Unethical…And Stupid…Quote Of The Month: Minneapolis Restaurant Owner Ruhel Islam

“Let my building burn, Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail.”

—-Ruhel Islam, owner of the restaurant Gandhi Mahal, in Minneapolis, quoted by his daughter in the Facebook post above.

Is it my imagination, or has the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis generated even more idiotic quotes and responses than these events usually do?

The quote from Ruehl Islam sets some kind of a record: dumbest quote ever to be praised by someone who isn’t a closed-head injury victim, perhaps? The now completely ideologically-deranged New York Magazine, wrote of it,

Published on the restaurant’s Facebook page and since widely shared, Hafsa’s post asks people not to worry, and ends the update with a message of support for their neighbors. Hundreds have responded with messages of support and pride, with one person writing “thank you for living your public life with such integrity and continual love for your community.” Many others have shared similar comments about Ruhel, an immigrant from Bahar Mordan, Bangladesh….Ruhel’s words have been shared across social media by everyone from San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Soleil Ho, a former Minneapolis resident, to television host and chef Andrew Zimmern and activist DeRay Mckesson, as a powerful expression of the value of human life over property.

Well, maybe if your goal is to engage in cynical grandstanding and signal warped virtues to a community gone nuts, such a quote isn’t so dumb. Surely regarding it as “a powerful expression of the value of human life over property” is, however. How, exactly, does shrugging off the illegal destruction of private property in a mass tantrum benefit human life? Let’s see: according to a local listing, these are the businesses damaged by the riots, or as CNN calls them, “mostly peaceful protests”: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Twitter

Twitter crossed the digital Rubicon this week, as we had to know it would sooner or later.  It added qualifying links to two of President Trump’s tweets  about mail-in ballots, in which he claimed they would cause the 2020 Presidential election to be “rigged.” The New York Times, typically, wrote that he “falsely” predicted that result, and there you have it: social media now is choosing to use its power to tell the public what opinions are “true.”…just like the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

The links — which were in blue lettering at the bottom of the posts and punctuated by  exclamation marks — urged people to “get the facts” about voting by mail. Clicking on the links led to a CNN story that said Mr. Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated and to a list of bullet points that Twitter had compiled rebutting the “inaccuracies.”

Because CNN is where reasonable people go who want “the facts.”

Twitter, as a private rather than a government communications platform, can do this if it chooses, and the consequences to the company are likely to be far less serious than the consequences to public discourse. There is no way this kind of policing of speech, from the President or anyone else, can be done fairly, consistently and even-handedly. Already, Twitter has demonstrated hard ideological bias in its choices of which Twitter users to suspend or otherwise censor, and this escalation opens the door wide to more abuse. Will Twitter be similarly vigilant in calling out Democrats, activists, pundits and journalists on their excesses? You know they won’t; they couldn’t if they tried. Twitter’s wan excuse is that Trump’s tweets are special. I suspect the company is setting itself up for some serious federal regulation. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Great Central Park Dog-Walking Controversy

Oh, fine, another one of these.

Isn’t it fun how, thanks to the toxic combination of cell phone cameras and social media, a few minutes of what once would have been an isolated moment of bad judgment and rude behavior is now able to metastasize into a life and career-destroying catastrophe? Do you like that new reality? Awfully brutal and unforgiving, isn’t it?

The episode at hand involved the woman in the video above, Amy Cooper. She was walking her cocker spaniel off leash when  a bird watcher named Christian Cooper—no relation—told her the unleashed dog  violated park rules. When Amy refused to put her dog on a leash, Christian told her he was going to offer her dog a treat because this typically makes owners want to leash their dogs in response. That wasn’t the other Cooper’s response, however. She threatened to call the police and tell them that “an African American man” was threatening her life. She did too, as Christian recorded it all. Later, Christian’s sister, also named Cooper, posted the video, which got 33 million views on Twitter alone, and is now pushing 200 million views on other platforms.

Then, the deluge. Christian appeared on CNN with Don Lemon, where he accused Amy of trying ” to bring death by cop down on [his] head.” She got death threats, which Christian said was wrong, though his accusation would seem to have helped spark them. Amy Cooper, seeing what was coming,  told CNN she regretted calling the police, saying,

“It was unacceptable, and words are just words, but I can’t undo what I did. I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man and his family, I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.”

Unfortunately for Amy, apologies don’t make a dent in the fervor of social media mobs. Some members of this one, after somehow tracking down her dog-walker,  contacted the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc. where Amy had obtained “Henry” several years ago, and the organization announced on Facebook that she had “voluntarily surrendered” her pet to the organization. “He is safe and in good health,” the group wrote.

Cooper had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, but her employer announced that she had been placed on leave while the incident was being investigated. By yesterday afternoon, she had been fired. “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company announced.

Now Christian Cooper is having twinges of regret. “It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

He might have considered that before turning the video over to the mob.

Michael Fischer, president of the Central Park Civic Association, decided to pile on—heck, why not?—and issued a statement calling for Amy to be banned from Central Park:

“This disgusting display of intolerance is unacceptable and should never, ever be accepted in the City’s public domain like Central Park.The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city’s most famous park.”

Let’s all applaud the impeccable virtue of Mr. Fischer, since that’s obviously what he’s after.  I’m sure, if we think creatively, we can think of more ways to punish Amy Cooper beyond destroying her reputation, ending her career and taking away her dog. Make her change her name, move out of the country, have plastic surgery, end up pushing a grocery cart full of junk…after all, she was really horrible to a  stranger for about two minutes. What else? Continue reading

If You Present Me With Appeals Like This, You Will NEVER Have My Support

I’ve been presented with dozens of these obnoxious things with their false dichotomy tricks in recent years, including many from political candidates. I have intended to post about it for quite a while, but I was waiting for one that especially annoyed me, and yesterday the conservative news aggregator The Blaze won the metaphorical Kewpie doll.

This approach insults anyone who chooses not to accept a an offer, giving them a choice between “yes, sure, junk up my in box with even more emails than I am getting already” and a self-confession of moral and intellectual inadequacy. There really is no difference between the Blaze’s “no” option and an outright attack, as in “If you don’t agree to sign up for our stories (and also allow us to sell your data to God knows who), you are obviously a gullible tool who is responsible for the sorry state of American society.”

Apparently this device works, which is why so many websites use it. That in itself is disturbing. When did Americans become so easily shamed and intimidated? I’ve received subscription offers from supposedly reputable newspapers that gave me the choice between “Sign me up!” and “No, I don’t care about award-winning journalism that will keep me informed about the news every responsible citizen needs to know.” That literally means, “If you don’t want to subscribe to our paper, you’re an irresponsible, apathetic, uninformed citizen.” No, I’m not, and you and your desperate, arrogant publication can bite me.

After that, I wouldn’t subscribe if it were the last newspaper on earth.

Wait…WHAT? The NFL’s Crazy Diversity Proposal

The National Football League’s “Rooney Rule” requires every team to interview one qualified minority candidate for a head-coaching job.  That requirement was introduced by owners in 2003, but it has done little to remedy the perceived problem that spawned it. About 70% of NFL players are black. Today, 17 years after Pittsburgh Steelers owner John Rooney pushed through his diversity-inspired rule, the NFL has two African-American general managers for 32 teams, or 6.3%. The league has three black head coaches for 32 teams. That’s 9.4%.

The contrast with the National Basketball Association, which also has an overwhelmingly black player population, is striking, as the graph above illustrates. Is this evidence of NFL discrimination? It’s certainly a bad look. Fans, of course, literally do not care what color their team’s management is as long as their work results in winning seasons and championships.

So this coming week, in a Zoom meeting necessitated by the pandemic, NFL owners will reportedly consider a new proposal to provide incentives to motivate owners to hire more of those minority candidates rather than just interview them. Continue reading

Quick Notes, And An Open Forum

Before opening discussion up to the floor (I’ve got a bunch of deadlines to meet today), a couple of brief notes:

  • Ed Whelan nicely shreds a ridiculous letter from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse that I was going to take on myself before I saw his excellent job.
  • Earlier I wrote about the case of Aimee Stephens, now pending in the Supreme Court, whose employer fired her because she was transitioning to female and used the pretense that she was refusing to wear gender-appropriate garb. She just died before any ruling, but I assume this won’t render her case, or the issue, moot.
  • I will be writing about the ethical significance regarding the release of the “unmasking” list as soon as I figure it out. At very least, the list seems to show that several Obama officials, notably Joe Biden, have been lying.

And now, you’re on your own.