Category Archives: Ethics Quotes

What Wellesley College Students Consider To Be Freedom Of Speech

A recent editorial in the Wellesley College student newspaper—Wellesley, as I’m sure you know, is the alma mater of Hillary Clinton—has justly set off ethics alarms across the political spectrum. That, at least, is good news: the hostility to free thought, expression and speech that I thought had decisively corrupted one side of that spectrum apparently is not as entrenched as I thought, or at least it is being diplomatically disguised.

The editorial with the Orwellian title of  “Free Speech Is Not Violated At Wellesley ” (it would have been accurate if the headline read “We Think Free Speech Is Not Violated At Wellesley Because Wellesley Hasn’t Taught Us What Free Speech Is”), contained several month’s worth of Ethics Alarms Unethical Quotes of the Week, such as

Many members of our community, including students, alumnae and faculty, have criticized the Wellesley community for becoming an environment where free speech is not allowed or is a violated right….However, we fundamentally disagree with that characterization, and we disagree with the idea that free speech is infringed upon at Wellesley. Rather, our Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.

Translation: We don’t oppose free speech. We just oppose speech we disagree with.

Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech.

By this definition, the editorial itself is hate speech. This is the kind of rhetoric that Captain Kirk used to make evil computers blow their circuits on “Star Trek.”

The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.

Now we know they don’t teach American History at Wellesley as well as philosophy and logic.

We have all said problematic claims, the origins of which were ingrained in us by our discriminatory and biased society. Luckily, most of us have been taught by our peers and mentors at Wellesley in a productive way. It is vital that we encourage people to correct and learn from their mistakes rather than berate them for a lack of education they could not control.  While it is expected that these lessons will be difficult and often personal, holding difficult conversations for the sake of educating is very different from shaming on the basis of ignorance.

Wait, wasn’t this endorsement of indoctrination written by Lenin or Stalin? Surely this section should be in quotes with attribution.

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted.

I’m sorry, I just ran screaming from my office and momentarily lost my train of thought.

Pointing to the worst sections of the editorial fail to convey its gobsmacking intellectual flaccidity, smug certitude and hostility to the open exchange of ideas. We know where this came from, too: the  education at Wellesley. This month, six Wellesley professors who comprise the college’s Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity signed a letter maintaining that Wellesley should not allow challenges to the political and social views that the campus has decreed are the correct ones, arguing that speakers who are brought to campus to encourage debate may “stifle productive debate by enabling the bullying of disempowered groups.” Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Seattle Seahawks Defensive End Michael Bennett

“Of course I think he’s been blackballed, obviously. Maybe the players agree that there’s a place for politics in sports, but I don’t think the teams, or the organization, or even the fans believe there’s a place for politics in sports. I think people want you to do your job and shut up — score a touchdown, dunk a basketball, hit a home run and call it a day. We’ll buy your jersey, and that’s it.”

—-Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, speaking about the current fate of ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unsigned after spending much of last season refusing to stand for the National Anthem because the United States “oppresses black people and people of color.”  Bennett’s comments came during an event at the artsy social justice warrior hang-out Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C.

It’s an admittedly perverse selection for the ethics quote designation, since Bennett meant the statement as criticism. He went on to say that he endorses professional athletes taking pubic stands on social issues to “inspire others” to engage in  mass action and demonstration. The 31-year-old defensive end, who makes about 10 million dollars a year, drew attention to himself in February when he opted out of an Israeli-government-sponsored trip to register his pro-Palestinian views, as if he actually knows enough the 80-year-old conflict to intelligently protest anything. This is about par for the course in the field of professional athlete off-the-field grandstanding.

Bennett was correct in his rueful description of the state of the culture, however. There is no place for politics in sport. Sport is entertainment, and fans follow sports to escape real world problems, not to be lectured on them by pseudo-educated celebrities with neither the training, skills or expertise to justify the giant megaphone celebrity affords them. Kaepernick’s stunt created a media circus around his struggling team, the San Francisco 49’ers, distracted its management fans and players, and cost the NFL viewers and advertising revenues. Since he was unable to articulate an intelligent rationale for his protest, it was also useless. Naturally, Kaepernick was cheered by the Left, and defended by many journalists as well as athletes who think their physical gifts should entitle them to social influence they don’t deserve. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Quote Of The Week: John Adams, 1814

“I dare not look beyond my Nose, into futurity. Our Money, Our Commerce, our Religion, our National and State Constitutions, even our Arts and Sciences, are So many Seed Plott’s of Division Faction, Sedition and Rebellion. Every thing is transmuted into an Instrument of Electioneering.”

—John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Feb. 1814.

To add some perspective.

Of course, John was always a Gloomy Gus.

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: President Trump

“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person.”

President Trump to the New York Times , speaking of the sexual harassment allegations intensifying around star Fox News Bloviator Bill O’Reilly.

Now President Trump is acting like President Obama. The President of the United States abuses his power and position by ever commenting upon or registering an opinion about matters that do not involve the national welfare or his direct responsibilities. These include local law enforcement episodes (Trayvon Martin, the arrest of an African-American professor in Cambridge by a white cop), employment matters, private lawsuits, pending criminal trials, TV shows (Saturday Night Live), media coverage (don’t get me started), legal business decisions and sports controversies (Colin Kaepernick). Obama never learned this (among other leadership basics, a problem fagged as “flat learning curve” on Ethics Alarms), and, not surprisingly, Trump is going to be even worse. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein

“That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball–a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan.”

—-Theo Epstein, president of the Major League Baseball’s 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs, upon learning that Fortune Magazine had chosen him #1 among “The World’s Greatest Leaders” in a click-bait list released last week.

Thank-you, Theo, for explaining moral luck and the perils of consequentialism to the public. When it came down to the final innings of Game 7 in last year’s World Series, it looked for a while like Cubs manager Joe Maddon was about to blow the chance to win an elusive title after over a century of frustration by keeping his clearly gassed closer on the game. That his risky decision didn’t make Maddon a goat for the ages and Epstein one more name in the long list of Cubs saviors was pure moral luck—the element of chance that often distinguished heroes from villains. winners from losers and geniuses from fools in the public’s mind—and gross consequentialism, judging decisions by their uncontrollable results rather than their objectively judged wisdom and ethics at the time they were made.

If the Cleveland Indians had won that crucial game in extra-inning, no matter how, Epstein might have made Fortune’s list (I doubt it), but he would have been nowhere near the top. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Me. I Forgot The Alamo

It is now April, and though I vowed at the end of February to finally post a thorough essay on the significance of the Alamo to U.S. culture, ethics, traditions and ideals at some point during the dates corresponding to the fort’s siege and fall on March 6, 1836.

I never did.

I thought I had posted an earlier essay about the Alamo. No, I haven’t. This is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable. The Alamo is by far my favorite historical landmark, and one of the events in American history that most inspires and fascinates me, beginning from when I looked on in horror as Fess Parker, as Davy Crockett, desperately clubbed Mexican soldiers as the last Alamo defender standing, and hundreds more charged toward him, as I heard on the soundtrack,

His land is biggest an’ his land is best, from grassy plains to the mountain crest

He’s ahead of us all meetin’ the test, followin’ his legend into the West

Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

I learned all about Davy, of course, the real Davy, America’s first pop culture celebrity who created a legend about himself and by fate, irony or justice, inadvertently placed himself in a situation where he had to live up to his own hype—and by all accounts,did. Then there was Jim Bowie. I had seen several dramatized versions of his famous last stand, fighting off soldiers from his cot, finally dispatching one last attacker with his Bowie knife. It is one of the great examples of a scene so good it should have been true, though it wasn’t: Bowie was dead or unconscious by the time the Mexican burst into his sick room. Never mind: that’s how an American hero goes down, fighting. “Print the legend.” Later I learned how Bowie really was one tough, brave SOB, the perfect man for the Alamo, if he hadn’t been dying of cholera.

My impression of William Barrett Travis was biased by Lawrence Harvey’s portrayal of him as a martinet (with a British accent that supplanted his Southern one after the first scene) in the John Wayne film “The Alamo”, my favorite movie as a kid. The real Travis was a pefect example of someone who had failed in everything, including as a father and a husband, but redeemed himself magnificently at the end. His final letter to the world is one of the great proclamations of defiance, dedication and courage in all of history.

I will never forget my first visit to the Alamo, and seeing Texans weeping, openly, proudly, as they read the plaque with Travis’s words engraved on it:

Commandancy of the Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 24, 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

Fellow citizens & compatriots

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.

William Barret Travis.

The story of the Alamo isn’t taught in schools outside of Texas. It wasn’t taught in my school, either: like most American history, I learned about the event though a thick mixture of pop culture, reading (Walter Lord’s “A Time To Stand” was a birthday present in 1961) and ongoing research. I recently completed “Texas Rising,” which was also just broadcast on cable as a mini-series starring the late Bill Paxton as Sam Houston. Historian Stephen Moore is a plodding writer, but he nicely puts to rest the currently popular politically correct slander that the defenders of the Alamo and the Texas rebels were fighting to keep their slaves, and trying to steal Mexico’s land. The Texians were opposing a dictator who had changed the terms under which they had come to the territory, and anyone familiar with the American character could have predicted what would happen when a despot demanded that they submit to unelected authority. The Alamo was a fight for liberty and democracy, and its martyrs exemplified sacrifice for principle and country.

I let them down. The story of the Alamo should be told and retold, with its ethics lessons made clear and bright. Next year, on March 6. 2018, Ethics Alarms will honor Davy, Bowie, Travis, Bonham, Almaron Dickinson and the rest of the 220 or so heroes who died that day, and do it the right way, not as an afterthought.

Don’t let me forget.

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, History, War and the Military

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill

“We don’t solve problems by misrepresenting what the real scenario is. It’s true that ISPs have way too much power over these markets, and they can see and collect a ton of information on you which can absolutely be misused in privacy-damaging ways. But let’s at least be honest about how it’s happening and what it means. That’s the only way we’re going to see real solutions to these issues.”

Mike Masnick on Techdirt on the ignorance of  supporters, critics, and the public regarding consumer broadband privacy protections, which were just repealed by straight party line votes in Congress, as part of the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislative branch to eliminate regulations and limits an agency’s ability to issue similar rules to the ones being struck down. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

I can see both sides of the Internet “privacy” debate. All I ask is that the average screaming head on TV knows what she’s talking about, and that the news media try to educate citizens on the issue, not portray it as another Obama did it so it’s wonderful, Trump is overturning it, so it’s the end of the world. This morning I watched Morning News Babe Robin Meade roll her eyes while “describing’ what the bill does completely inaccurately. The bill, her unhappy face broadcast is baaaad like everything the Trump Administration and Republicans do is baaaaad. Then she explained that the bill would allow internet service providers, browsers and “search engines” to take your internet history and sell it to big corporations.  Then she giggled about how Max Temkin, inventor of some card game* I have never heard of, promised in a tweet…

“If this shit passes I will buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.”

Robin, not having the foggiest idea what the bill really did, thought this was so funny and cool. She did not inform her audience, some of whom were actually seeking reliable information and not just tuning in to ogle, that..

  • The bill only undoes the Obama FCC regulations that stopped ISPs from gathering data on its customers’ internet use, and they hadn’t taken effect yet. In other words, it changes nothing.
  • Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other browsers and internet services still can gather anything they get their grubby cyber paws on. The FCC doesn’t regulate them.

You can’t buy Congress’ internet data. You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works. It’s a common misconception. We even saw this in Congress four years ago, where Rep. Louis Gohmert went on a smug but totally ignorant rant, asking why Google won’t sell the government all the data it has on people. As we explained at the time, that’s not how it works*. Advertisers aren’t buying your browsing data, and ISPs and other internet companies aren’t selling your data in a neat little package. It doesn’t help anyone to blatantly misrepresent what’s going on.

When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.

At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.

That’s it.

Got that, Robin?

Probably not. Continue reading

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