Ethics Quote Of The Month: Actor Peter Fonda (1940-2019)

“I believe that one is only truly free when learning, and one can only learn when one is free.”

—-Actor Peter Fonda, Henry’s son, Jane’s brother, and Bridget’s father, who died yesterday.

Memorable ethics quotes come from unexpected places sometimes, and this is a striking example. It’s also important, wise and true. I have never heard or read of anyone putting that thought quite that way.

Fonda’s observation focuses nicely on the roots of today’s existential cultural peril. A vast segment of the population has grown to adulthood with insufficient or defective knowledge, making them easy prey for power-seekers, demagogues and charlatans peddling theories and nostrums that a basic comprehension of history would instantly undermine. Instead of being imbued by their teachers and parents with intellectual curiosity, a healthy and intrinsically American suspicion of authority, and a reluctance to follow mobs of any kind, they lack the intellectual defenses to fend off ideological cant, the most dangerous of which holds that society will only be made virtuous by the unthinking acceptance of approved doctrine. That requires locking in dogma early, and creating a public that is inoculated against learning by being cut off from non-conforming information. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins

“This is not history; it is a remnant from a bygone era.”

—–San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins, expounding to the New York Times and expressing her displeasure with the school board’s vote to nullified an earlier vote to spend over $600,000 to paint over Depression-era school murals depicting slavery and the deaths of Native Americans.

I love this unethical quote; it might be my favorite of all the unethical quotes Ethics Alarms has ever featured. It tells us so much in so few words.

Ethics Alarms wrote about the school board’s earlier vote that this one, for now, at least, undid, last June, noting,

The San Francisco school board unanimously voted this week  to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money to eliminate the  “Life of Washington,” a 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural that has been on view in the  city’s George Washington High School since 1936. It was considered politically incorrect at the time, but in a way that explicated American history rather than whitewashing it.  Among the mural’s many scenes is one depicting slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and Virginia colonists walking past a dead Native American.  The Horror. Although these scenes are historically accurate as well as provocative, “The truth will make you free” has been substantially abandoned by the Left in the U.S. Taking their cues from the dead and rotten Soviet Union and “1984”,  the new slogan is George Orwell’s “Who controls the past controls the future.”

Ms. Collins’ classic quote perfectly expresses how her city, her party and her ideological clones reached the state of delusion and the worship of manipulated reality (remember, the Democratic Party’s leading contender for the White House “gaffed” by admitting last week that “we choose about truth, not facts”) that have so many of our political leaders flirting openly with totalitarianism.

The idea is to prevent young citizens (and older ones too) from acquiring the kind of messy information that requires critical thought to sort out, the information known as “history”and “life.”Without forceful filtering, people of sound and open minds are liable to reach conclusions that don’t advance those of the ascendant (they think) re-engineers of American values and culture. Those poisoned by the past and traditional American values  might be willing to treat  with fairness and respect, rather than contempt and abuse, those who hold non-conforming, non-woke positions and policies. They might tolerate the rebels and iconoclasts who refuse to follow in lock-step their betters of superior virtue and wisdom . Continue reading

“Unethical” Is Too Mild To Describe Elizabeth Warren, And “Gullible” Is Too Nice To Describe Her Supporters

Above is what Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who presumes to tell us that she is qualified to be President of the United States,  tweeted to her followers last week. This deliberate and disgraceful lie could be presented on Ethics Alarms as evidence that Warren is an Ethics Dunce. It would easily qualify as an Unethical Quote of the Week (Month…Year…). It is fully qualified as an Unethical Tweet of the Week, in a category that is becoming increasingly contested. None of these, however, quite capture the miserable, cynical, disgusting nature of Warren’s statement. Continue reading

The Complete El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto, With Ethics Commentary, PART II [UPDATED]

[Before continuing with the Ethics Alarms commentary to follow, readers should take the time to read the entire El Paso shooter’s manifesto here, in Part I.]

Observations (cont.):

4. To be clear, the man is mad as a hatter. He is surprisingly articulate and thoughtful, however—more than many of the pundits that have tried to exploit his screed for their own purposes.

5. The basic inspiration for both the manifesto itself and the attack it preceded was the “Great Replacement,” a fevered  conspiracy theory posited by Renaud Camus, a French writer. The idea is neither novel nor complicated. It is like the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” although it is more like the invasion of the culture snatchers. Unrestrained immigration by an alien culture allows the majority, predominant culture to be replaced before it knows what has happened.

In the introduction to his manifesto, the shooter says, “My motives for this attack are not at all personal. Actually the Hispanic community was not my target before I read “The Great Replacement.” For the record, President Trump has never said or written anything that echoes or references the  “Great Replacement” paranoia. Pat Buchanan, when he was the champion of the GOP far right in the 80s and 90s, espoused similar theories, but never Trump. The President has never attacked the concept of immigration, only illegal immigration. Tying the manifesto to the President is another despicable example of representing opposition to illegal immigration as a variety of xenophobia or racism.

6. The manifesto is not partisan. “The inconvenient truth is that our leaders, both Democrat AND Republican, have been failing us for decades,” it states early on. This is true, incidentally, regarding illegal immigration. Like most conspiracy theories, there are elements of truth in the shooter’s arguments; the problem is the extreme and unwarranted conclusions they lead him to adopt.

The shooter does finger the Democratic Party as the greater culprit, because they “intend to use open borders, free healthcare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup by importing and then legalizing millions of new voters.” Again, there’s nothing crazy about that theory, which has been posited by many for decades by non-crazy people, and it still seems more likely than not. Again, it contains elements of truth, and there is nothing about objecting to such strategy or finding it cynical and unethical that makes the argument racist. Still, “the Republican Party is also terrible,” the shooter writes.

7.  Most of the shooter’s ideological positions could hardly be more contrary to Trumpism (whatever it is) or conservatism: Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Vox

“Realistically, a gun control plan that has any hope of getting us down to European levels of violence is going to mean taking a huge number of guns away from a huge number of gun owners.”

—Vox writer Dylan Matthews, in an essay titled “What no politician wants to admit about gun control.”

Now, this quote isn’t ethical because what it advocates is ethical, or even because what it claims is true, or proposes is feasible. It’s ethical because it is, refreshingly, honest. Vox admits what the advocates of “sensible gun regulations” do not and dare not. Nothing short of confiscating guns, which will require gutting or eliminating the Second Amendment, will “get American gun violence down to acceptable levels,” which Matthews defines as “European levels.”

The lead-in to the quote above is this…

But let’s be clear about precisely what kind of decision is letting events like this recur, most recently in Dayton and El Paso. Congress’s decision not to pass background checks is not what’s keeping the US from European gun violence levels. The expiration of the assault weapons ban is not behind the gap. What’s behind the gap, plenty of research indicates, is that Americans have more guns. The statistics are mind-blowing: America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but almost half of its civilian-owned guns.

In other words, the U.S. has about 11 times the guaranteed personal liberty of the rest of the world. I suspect it’s greater than that.

Vox seems to be puzzled as to why Americans regard the right of self-protection and not having to be both symbolic and actual lackeys and wards of the State more highly than nations elsewhere, whose citizens fled their cultures to create and enjoy ours.  There’s no mystery. The United states has more guns and gun deaths  because it has the Second Amendment, and the nations progressives love so much do not. Another version: America is like it is because this is the nation and culture we created, more individualistic, more independent, more self-sufficient, more violent,  more defiant, and less respectful of authority than other nations.

The availability of so many guns (and it is the availability of guns, not the number, that confiscation is aimed at) is more significant as a symptom of American greatness rather than American pathology, although the two are inextricably linked. To progressives (Many? Most? Some?), removing citizens’ right to be armed serves dual purposes: removing the risk of gun abuse (they think), and also watering down those elements of the American character that have made installing a “benign” nanny state with a managed economy and life style so difficult for them.

Vox deserves credit for not continuing the deception, and revealing what has always been the objective of “sensible gun control.” It is forcibly disarming citizens, because the anti-gun Left  knows none of the incremental measures they champion will work.

Now Vox needs to take the next step: admitting that gun confiscation will never happen.

If what politicians are proposing won’t work, and the only measure that might work (but wouldn’t) can’t happen, what’s all the shouting about? Gun violence is a feature of America, not a bug, and America is staying America.

Ethics Quote Of The Day: “Rory,” Althouse Blog Commenter

“We may be cooked. Trying to overturn the result of election without giving the elected a peaceful day in office is an odious thing. There are millions of people among us who have done that now. It’s too big a sin – I don’t think very many of them will ever be able to walk it back and reengage with politics in a normal way.”

—Commenter “Rory” on Althouse’s excerpt—without commentary—on  a piece by Carl Hulse of the Times in which he concludes that President Trump won’t be impeached before the 2020 elections, and probably never was going to be.

I’m not especially interested in Hulse’s conclusion, which I think is obvious now (as I wrote yesterday) and was obvious to me for some time. I do think Rory is spot on about the sin of “trying to overturn the result of election without giving the elected a peaceful day in office,” a neat summary of the conduct  Ethics Alarms has been condemning since the 2016 Presidential election. This is the essence of the “2016 Post-Election Ethics Train Wreck”, as the Ethics Alarms tag terms it, when an entire political party and most of its supporters, plus the mainstream news media, decided to defy and sacrifice crucial American traditions regarding elections and our institutions because it couldn’t accept losing to a candidate it detested. It is this divisive, reckless, dangerous conduct that I regard as the single greatest ethics crisis in my lifetime.

I am not certain about Rory’s conclusion, that having shattered these crucial American principles—there are many of them, large and small, such as not delighting in the humiliation of our national leader by others—-the citizens involved will never “be able to walk it back and reengage with politics in a normal way.” My continuing fight to try to throw metaphorical ice water in the faces of those who have been corrupted by Hillary Clinton,  the Congressional Black Caucus, MSNBC, CNN, Stephen Colbert, Charles Blow and so many others and say, “Snap out of it!” will continue, futile or not. I don’t think it is futile.

I hope not.

Stop Making Me Defend President Trump! Those Stupid Tweets Are Many Things, But They Aren’t “Racist”

CNN called them racist yesterday (so did Huffpo, but you know—Huffpo.). That’s not journalism. You tell the public about a statement, and you let others of note or credibility characterize it. It is particularly unethical journalism to cross the line into characterizing a statement and to characterize it falsely to conform to a false narrative or “big lie,” which the “Trump is a racist” assertion is.

Ann Althouse, bless her, saved me the time of explaining why yesterday’s stupid tweets, which I posted about here, are not racist in her first blog post this morning. No one should have to explain that the tweets weren’t racist, since they weren’t, and have no characteristic of racism whatsoever. Critics who choose that cheap route should have to explain why the tweets are racist, using the actual definition, which the accusation defies. Here is Althouse, after repeating the original set of tweets: Continue reading