Category Archives: Daily Life

Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations

Cross the Parkland shooting with the ethical problems created by technology, and you get this..

One of our engaged readers sent me this story, about how real-time texting and tweeting have become standard fare during mass shootings and other crisis situations. The story is full of positive words for the phenomenon….

The texts hit a nerve with people because they’re so gut-wrenching and real, Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are highly emotional, and enable people to feel empathy and a connection to what the students were feeling at the time,” she says. Social media in particular is good for sharing these texts, Rutledge adds. “Removing the sense of mediation in connection is what social media does best,” she says. “It transports people into events and allows them to share the feelings more intensely.”

The messages are also stimulating to people and create a horror-story-type feeling — except they’re not made up, clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That can also make the experience more real. “They bring the reality of the dangers in the world into one’s life and right into your personal space,” Mayer says. “Therefore, it becomes even more frightening.”

The texts also allow people to experience the events vicariously, albeit from a safe distance, and can prompt feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the safety they do have, Rutledge says.

But these kinds of texts really resonate because they’re authentic and straight from the source. “They are real-time reporting of feelings and events,” Rutledge points out.

Well, it’s certainly nice that vivid reporting comes out of massacres! What would we do without social media and cell phones!

My reaction is completely different: Why are these people texting and tweeting in the middle of a crisis? Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Daily Life, History, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(Where did the morning go?)

1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to  program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,

“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.

I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.

As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available.  It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.

2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless. Continue reading

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An Apology To Bradford Dillman, And Introducing The Dillman Rule

I owe Bradford Dillman, the movie and TV actor who died on January 16, an apology. I hope I learn something from it.

If you had asked me during the Seventies and Eighties who I regarded as the epitome of a hack actor, it would have been Bradford Dillman. For most of the period he was a guest star on every TV drama imaginable, usually phoning in the same performance as a serious, tense, often nasty weasl or jerk. I came to believe that he was a serious, tense, often nasty weasel or jerk; otherwise, why would he only play such roles? Although Dillman’s career began well, with his portrayal of a fictional version thrill-killer Dickie Loeb in Compulsion, the film version of the Leopold-Loeb murder and trial. “Bradford Dillman emerges as an actor of imposing stature as the bossy, over-ebullient and immature mama’s boy, Artie,” A. H. Weiler wrote in a Times review. Dillman shared best actor honors with co-stars Dean Stockwell and Orson Welles at the Cannes Film Festival, and that was about the last honor he ever got. His career went downhill from there.

I never forgave him for appearing as John Wilkes Booth in 1977’s  horrible  “The Lincoln Conspiracy.” I am a Lincoln assassination buff, and looked forward to the movie, braving a blizzard to see it and dragging my bride to be along with me as one of our first dates. I was embarrassed.  The film was so bad I walked out of it, one of only five movies to force me out of the theater since I was a kid (The others, for the record: the original “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Silent Scream,” “JFK,” and “The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz.”)

As usual, it wasn’t that Dillman was bad, it was just that he was predicable, and the material he was acting in was lousy. Oh, now and then , a major film like “The Way We Were,” a couple of the Dirty Harry films, or a decent TV show like “Columbo” had a Bradford Dillman character, so they got, reasonably enough, Bradford Dillman to play him, but by then the cognitive dissonance scale—

—was working against Dillman. Bradford was already lodged at the bottom. If he was in it, whatever it was was pulled down below zero in my mind. Bradford Dillman? Yechhh.

This was a bias. I stopped really watching Bradford Dillman, and only reacted to him based on old grudges and assumption formed so long ago that I couldn’t even recite them. It was prejudice. It was unfair. It breached the Golden Rule. I never gave him a chance, for decades. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Those “Dissent Is Patriotic” Signs

My Alexandria, Virginia neighbors are fond of simple-minded and obnoxious virtue-signalling signs, as I discussed here.

Another one has started popping up, this one proclaiming “Dissent is Patriotic.” As a general proposition, little of value can be stated in three words, especially those with “is” in the middle. “Dissent is Patriotic” is a gross generality, and a sign like this bolsters the delusions of smug absolutists and the historically ignorant.

The ACLU has been pushing this slogan (to sell T-shirts, it seems), and it had a re-birth thanks to the NFL kneelers, who are in truth a perfect example of when dissent isn’t patriotic. Incoherent dissent isn’t patriotic: it makes all dissent look bad. Dissent based on hate, lies, or a desire to divide isn’t patriotic: it’s hateful, dishonest and divisive, which is to say harmful, and thus unethical.

Speaking of dishonesty, many of these signs use the phrasing you see on the left, which is a fake quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Attaching a dubious assertion to a much-admired historical figure is an unethical propaganda tactic employing a dishonest appeal to authority.  (This is a famous example.)

As Ethan Epstein wrote in The Weekly Standard,

Few if any Americans are associated with more apocryphal quotes than Thomas Jefferson, but the false notion that he said, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is among the easiest to dispel. Because Jefferson never would have said something so idiotic. Of course dissent can be patriotic, but it isn’t inherently so. What one is dissenting from matters. Were members of the German American Bund, who protested the U.S.’s anti-Nazi policies in the 1930s and ‘40s, enacting the “highest form of patriotism?”

Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Quotes, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2018: Brrrrrrr!… “Hey!”… Duh!… And “WHAT?”

G-g-g-good M-m-m-morning!

1 Enforcing societal standards in the cold. Today, as we ran errands in 13 degree weather and gusting winds to fetch my sick son some chicken soup and DayQuil, my wife witnessed the following episode at the 7-11. With a long line behind him, a man stood at the register meticulously picking lottery numbers. A woman in line confronted him directly, saying, “You came out in this cold just to waste your money on the lottery? You’re sick. Save your money. Be responsible. Get help”

Brava.

Driving home, we saw many parents walking their children to Alexandria schools (which delayed their opening here two hours.) At an intersection near the school across a parking lot from our home, my wife and I saw a young girl, maybe seven or eight, with her father, about to cross the street. The girl had a winter jacket on and a hat, but only thin leggings and—get this—sneakers with no socks. The wind chill outside here is estimated at -4.

We didn’t say anything to the father. Should we have? I think so.

2. More state lottery ethics. Speaking of unethical state lotteries, which could only become ethical if the states eliminated them, you will recall Item #4 in the 12/28/17 warm-up, about how South Carolina had bollixed up its lottery and is deciding whether to stiff the winners, since there were far too many of them thanks to computer programming error. That state needs to follow the ethical example of Connecticut.

After an error was discovered in how the drawing was handled—involving 100,000 tickets—the lottery posted a notice on its official website saying there was indeed a problem with the drawing, and that “due to an error in the range of tickets eligible for the Super Draw drawing, a second drawing will take place shortly. HOLD ALL TICKETS.” Later it announced,  through this statement from Interim Lottery President & CEO Chelsea Turner: Continue reading

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The Unabomber, The Red Light, And Me [UPDATED!]

I ran a red light last night, and I’m feeling bad about it. Ted Kaczynski made me do it.

It was after midnight, and I was returning home after seeing the pre-Broadway production of the musical “Mean Girls,” based on the cult Lindsay Lohan comedy. I was late, my phone was dead, I knew my wife would be worried, and I was stopped at an intersection where I could see for many football fields in all directions. There were no cars to be seen anywhere.

Ted, , aka “The Unabomber” or “Snookums” to his friends, cited my exact situation as an example of how we have become slaves to our technology. Why do we waste moments of our limited lifespan because of a red light, when there is no reason to be stopped other than because the signal says to. Admittedly, this had bothered me before I read Ted’s complaint. Stop lights should start blinking by midnight, allowing a motorist to proceed with caution, as with a stop sign.  If one isn’t blinking, we should be allowed to treat it as if it is.

Last night, I ran the light. With my luck, there was a camera at the intersection, and I’ll get a ticket in the mail. But..

…whether I do or not doesn’t change the ethical or unethical character of my conduct. That’s just moral luck.

…it was still against the law to run the light, even it I was treating it as a blinking light, because it wasn’t

…breaking the law is unethical, even when the law is stupid, and

…there was no legitimate emergency that could justify my running the light as a utilitarian act.

So I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to turn myself in, but still guilty, since I am guilty.

But Ted wasn’t wrong.

Update: Let me add this; I was thinking in the shower.

On several occasions in the past, I have found myself stopped by a malfunctioning light that appeared to be determined to stay red forever. Is it ethical to go through the light then? The alternative is theoretically being stuck for the rest of my life. So we run such lights, on the theory the frozen stop light is not meeting the intent of the law or the authorities who placed it there, and to remain servile to the light under such circumstances is unreasonable. Yet running it is still breaking the law, and isn’t stopping for a light in the dead of night with no cars to be seen also not consistent with the intent of the law and the light? What’s the distinction?

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“Next Time”… Our Thanksgiving Ethics Botch

Yesterday, faced with the prospect of a tiny Thanksgiving, which I find only reminds me of the former table-mates lost forever, and having the extra excuse of our wedding anniversary, Grace and I decided to take our increasingly otherwise occupied son and have Thanksgiving dinner at the Prime Rib, a ridiculously expensive restaurant. The meal was lovely and low stress for a holiday dinner, a feature especially welcome right now.

The restaurant was filled with family groups without kids, many in gowns and formal wear. Also filling the air was happy banter of the sort that holidays typically inspire. Over to my right, however, sat a well-dressed man in his late 60s or seventies, dining alone. I found myself thinking about him throughout the meal. What a lonely, solitary, depressing way to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought. If I get to the state where I am so bereft of family and friends that I find myself in a five-star restaurant dining alone on Thanksgiving, just hit me over the head with cinder block. He looked a little like Alan Greenspan, and I still felt terrible for him.

After dinner, and he had left the restaurant, I mentioned all of this to my wife.

“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “We should have invited him to join us.”

Ugh. I had considered that. But our family gets the opportunity to eat together so seldom, and this was an anniversary celebration too. My son also has a tendency to clam up around strangers, and he seemed relaxed and happy for a change. I had quickly talked myself out of even raising the possibility of inviting a fourth to our Thanksgiving/ 37th Anniversary table.

Yet of course that’s what we should have done, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Maybe the man was having a great time by himself. Maybe we would have embarrassed him. Heck, I don’t know. It’s also possible that he would have jumped at the chance. Who knows? All I do know is that I would have appreciated the offer, and will, unless someone gets behind me with the cinder block before I have the chance. It was still the kind, considerate, compassionate, ethical thing to do.

“Next time, let’s make sure we invite someone like that,” Grace said. I agreed.

Sure.

Next time.

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Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family