Category Archives: Ethics Quotes

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Dan Rather, Ex-Respected Journalist

See, if Dan didn’t have that habit of using his ear as a pencil sharpener, he wouldn’t say silly things like this…

“When Trump criticizes “all types of racism” he’s using false equivalence to wink at those who peddle in the distortions of white grievance. It makes a mockery of our history and our present. It’s not calming and unifying. it’s provocative and divisive. And it’s intentional.”

—Dan Rather, in a recent tweet, signaling his virtuous acceptance of the convenient falsehood that anti-white racism isn’t racism at all.

Rather is saying it is “false equivalence” to call all forms of racism equally wrong. The level of ethical obtuseness required to make this statement is high and airless. For one thing, it is based on consequentialism, the fallacious but common misconception that the consequences of an unethical act make it more or less ethical. No one would seriously dispute that anti-black racism has more than lapped the field regarding the pain, harm and death that it has caused. That historical fact does not make anti-white racism any better, or an even-handed condemnation of both a “false equivalence.” Rather’s reasoning is poisoned  with rationalizations, like “it’s not the worst thing” and “they had it coming.”

What is dangerously “provocative and divisive” is the double standard enablers and apologists for anti-white racism are trying to justify.

Jonah Goldberg exposes ethical obtuseness of Rather and his compatriots, writing in the LA Times: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Apple, Or “Stop Making Me Defend Alex Jones!”

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

—-A spokesperson for Apple last week, following confirmation that it had removed five out of six podcasts by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,  including “The Alex Jones Show” and some of his InfoWars audio streams. 

This is a terrifying statement…almost as terrifying as the fact that so many Americans won’t understand why it’s terrifying. Unless one does not understand the First Amendment and why its principles are the beating heart of American democracy, or unless you are an increasingly typical 21st Century progressive, who feels that the Left should have the power to decide what kind of speech is tolerable, Apple is telling us that it is going to use its immense power and influence over the distribution of ideas to suit its preferences regarding what people should see, hear, and think. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/18: Those Tricky Things Called “Standards” [Updated]

Goooood MORNING, Cape Cod!

(I miss you, but I miss your clams more.)

1. It is amazing the amount of publicity the Manafort trial is getting. I actually heard a Fox News correspondent argue that Manafort’s indictment proves that the Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt.” I see my anti-Trump Facebook friends making the same claim. Bias makes you stupid. No aspect of the charges against Manafort relate to “Russian collusion,” and if the news media were not determined to convince the public that proof of impeachable offenses were just over the horizon and that Mueller was getting closer, closer, CLOSER, this would be a minor news event, if a news event at all. In fact, the Manafort trial is evidence that the Mueller investigation, whether the special prosecutor intends it to be or not, is functioning like a witch hunt. Any associate of the President past, present or future is on notice that he or she is a potential target, involving potential expense, embarrassment, and smears by the media. The political objective of the investigation is to make governing impossible, by causing widespread fear of guilt by association among those who might assist the President.

Virtually any past President you name had shady friends and associates who would be at risk from a Mueller-style “see-what-dirt-we-can-dig-up” operation. The GOP planted the seeds for this tactic with Whitewater. Republicans have no standing to complain, but Trump does.

2. THIS must be impeachable, somehow. CNN headline: “Donald Trump has no earthly clue about how real people buy groceries.”

The crux of the complaint is that the President used buying groceries as an example of basic requirements of life that involve the uses of IDs, as part of a riff on the need for voter identification laws. The “he doesn’t buy his own groceries!” accusation was last used against George H.W. Bush, when he expressed “what will they think of next?” amazement at computer checkout devices. “[The President] has no earthly clue what the average person, living paycheck to paycheck, making ends meet, is dealing with day to day. Going to the grocery store is not about presenting identification, but it can be about figuring out how you’re going to pay for groceries,” bleats Jen Psaki, Obama’s former communications director, so we know she’s unbiased.

Virtually NONE of our national elected officials have bought their own groceries in years, and probably decades. The significance of this is so infinitesimal that it would escape detection by the naked eye. I hate buying groceries. I admire and envy anyone who has progressed to the stage in life where they can have some compensated minion do the job for them. Meanwhile, this is one of—what, a million? Is that too many, or two few?—examples of habitual Trump critics pouncing on one of his–what, a trillion?—careless verbal gaffes and trying to make them seem more damning than they are. Trump could have, quite accurately, cited many other normal transactions less crucial to the nation than the integrity of the ballot box that require IDs, like renting a car, checking into a hotel, getting auto registration renewed, or buying a bottle of scotch. He chose, for reasons buried somewhere in his unique mind—buying groceries, which as a mistake. I don’t care. I question the priorities and intelligence of anyone who does care.

Especially someone who tries to lie to her readers with this whopper: “In 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was running against Sen. John McCain, a clear turning point for the campaign came when McCain could not remember how many houses he owned. ” Sure Jen. That was the turning point! I remember it well: I said to my wife, “Oh NO! This is like Gerald Ford saying that Poland wasn’t behind the Iron Curtain! McCain is doomed! Doomed, I tell you!” And when Hillary couldn’t shake her email scandal, I remember thinking, “You know, this is just like McCain not remembering how many houses he owned!”

And the fact that the economy crashed right after McCain’s gaffe was just frosting on the cake.

3. This is defend Sonny Gray Day. In addition to being ambushed by an attempted Hader Gotcha and stinking up Yankee Stadium with a terrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles, now a minor league team, Gray is being criticized in New York because he smiled as a he walked off the mound while boos, jeers and catcalls reigned down on his head by the typically classy Yankee fans.

What was he supposed to do? Weep? Rend his garments? Booing an athlete who has done nothing to indicate that he wasn’t trying, but who merely failed, is asshole behavior. Gray’s smile meant, “Boy, these fans are ridiculous. Well, what can you do? This is New York.” Indeed. The smile was about the only thing Sonny did right yesterday. Continue reading

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“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading

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A Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Special: Roman Polanski’s Wife Authors An Unethical Quote For The Ages!

The feminist and her husband

Some background is in order.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences invited 928 artists  to join the Academy in a rough equivalent of packing the Supreme Court. The idea is to get nominees and winners of Academy Awards that will be sufficiently “diverse”—merit is not the primary concern here—to avoid criticism from minority activist groups of all kinds, colors and agendas, as future Academy Awards honor tribes and agendas, rather than, you know, movies. What fun.

The Academy also kicked director Roman Polanski out, only a few decades after he was convicted of raping a juvenile actress and fled the country, as it installed (in December)  a new code of conduct for its members now that sexual harassment is officially (but not actually) taboo in the film industry, thanks to Harvey. We are told that the Academy consulted experts and ethicists. Really? For this is boilerplate junk:

“The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. If any member is found by the Board of Governors to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions, the Board of Governors may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s bylaws, including suspension or expulsion.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson emailed all members last week, reiterating:

“Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers. In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity. There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”

All 8,427 members will be expected to abide by the new guidelines with “will be” the key phrase. Obviously many, many of the current members have violated—are violating, probably will violate—these ill-defined standards. Why has Polanski been singled out for expulsion, and not, for example, Casey Affleck? Where was due process? Why was Polanski punished for conduct that occurred long, long before the standards were announced? How is that fair?

Forget it, Jake..it’s Hollywood. Still, Polanski is suing the Academy, and he has a good case.

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps too explicably, the Academy invited French actress Emmanuelle Seigner to join its membership. She is Polanski’s wife. Is she a major artist, a significant artist, a worthy member? Hardly. Is there any good reason she should have been invited, other than the fact that she is female, and Men Bad/Women Good is the current motto in Progressive Land, and that she would provide the fugitive director of “Rosemary’s Baby” a way to have influence in the Academy without embarrassing it? Continue reading

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Contender For Unethical Quote Of The Decade: Rep. Maxine Waters (D., CAL)

“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Maxine Waters, race-biting fool extraordinaire and, astoundingly, a member of Congress, endorsing the Red Hen restaurant’s denial of Sarah Huckabee’s right to enjoy a public accommodation with her family, and encouraging more of the same.

“Creating  crowd”  to harass someone who is doing no harm is called “inciting a riot.” If I see anyone trying to “create a crowd” to tell a citizen that he or she is not welcome, I’m calling the police. In the alternative, I’ll “create a crowd” of fair and decent Americans to make the point that bullies and bigots aren’t welcome in a civilized society. Fortunately most rational people realize that Waters is a vicious idiot, but the Democrats have an obligation to make her cool it.

She is going to get someone killed, and those who tolerate and enable her will be complicit.

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