Jennifer Williams’ Three Questions

Harpers’ “anti-cancel culture” letter, discussed here was instructive, but not in the manner that its sponsors intended. It excluded most conservatives (except Stockholm Syndrome types like David Brooks) and all of those who had been damaged by progressive cancel-mobs, making the exercise suspect as Left-wing grandstanding. Worse, an alarming number of progressives who didn’t sign the letter expressed disappointment that others did, because they fervently believe that expressing opinions that vary from woke cant should be punished, and that (though they won’t come right out and say it) free expression is undesirable. Hate speech, you know—makes people feel “unsafe” to have to associate with the unenlightened.

For some reason the criticism centered on Vox, the website begun by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein when pretending to be anything but a partisan shill became  too much for him. Vox is as biased leftward as Breitbart is biased in the other direction, which is why I seldom use, and never trust, either. Several Vox employees publicly objected to the fact that their colleague Matt Yglesias signed the letter, apparently forgetting that Yglesias, “by any means necessary” fan that he is, once admitted.

In response to the uproar, senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams tweeted,

What a fascinating set of ethics questions!

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Question #2, the one Williams answers, is apparently not as obvious as she seems to think it is. Tufts University history lecturer Kerri Greenidge demanded  to have her name  removed from the list of signers, claiming that her name  was used without her knowledge or consent. “I do not endorse this @ Harpers letter,” Prof. Greenidge tweeted. “I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction.” The Tufts historian’s sisters, novelist and New York Times opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge and playwright Kirsten Greenidge also asserted  that Kerri was included among the signatories without her consent or knowledge.

Prof. Greenidge was lying—to the public, and to her family. Harper’s quickly produced an email exchange from late June in which Greenidge agreed to sign. “Yes, I will add my signature. It reads well,” Greenidge wrote from her Tufts email address. “Let me know what more you need from me.”

“Oh, just a promise that you won’t cave like a wet cardboard box and start blaming us if some of your progressive pals and family members complain, I guess,” is what Harper’s should have responded. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Corrupt And Cowardly Colleges Files: Marquette And Penn State

I’m sorry. I really am. These stories get worse and worse, far beyond anything I could have imagined just  a few years ago. I am so relieved that my son decided long ago that for him, college would be a waste of money and time. This has spared me the chore of explaining to him that it would be a waste of his values and mind as well.

First, let’s look at the latest chapter in the Marquette debacle involving Samantha Pfefferle, the incoming freshman who became an object of revulsion and terror because she dared to post a harmless, infantile video proclaiming her support for President Trump. The first part of the story dawned on Ethics Alarms this morning, here. Now we know that Mike Lovell, the president of Marquette, sent an email to Marquette’s Board of Trustees about the incident. The email was a dishonest, dastardly misrepresentation that would fully justify his firing for cause if the trustees had the curiosity and integrity to investigate the facts. Here I’m going to send you to John Hinderaker’s blog, Powerline, to read his expert vivisection of Lovell’s slimy machinations. I’m leaving it to him for two reasons. First, Hinderaker is a a skilled legal mind, and he does a superb job. Second, his blog is specifically mentioned, and denigrated, in in the president’s email.

The last time Marquette was mentioned critically here was in 2015, through the attentions of MIA Ethics Alarms commenter Rick Jones, aka “Curmie.” Rick, who used to give out his annual “Curmie Awards” for outrageous conduct in academia, nominated Marquette for firing a tenured professor who wrote a blog post that criticized a graduate student teaching assistant for telling a student that his opinion opposing gay marriage was homophobic and would not be permitted in her class.

Curmie was right and Marquette was wrong: a court later reinstated the professor and held the university liable for breaching his  “contract’s guarantee of academic freedom.”  The latest episode show that the school’s progressive intolerance for non-conforming view has metastasized since Curmie’s nomination.

John Hinderaker  titled his latest post “Marquette Weasels.” If that conduct was weaselly, what do we call this, from Penn State? Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Agony, 7/9/2020: I See Awful People…

Hi!

I am feeling stressed because there are a lot of Ethics Alarms projects  and commitments that are languishing: I’m trying to work out the logistics of a Zoom symposium for commenters; I have to compile the many submissions for the corporate and organizational grovels to the George Floyd mobs so we can vote on the best and worst; I am finishing the Ethics Alarms glossary of fake news categories, and I still owe Michael  West his prize from an Ethics Alarms contest he won a couple of years ago—and that’s still not all of them. The best I can say is: please be patient, because I’m not.

1. Is this a good sign, or something else? I turned on Sirius-XM’s “Comedy Greats” channel while driving to pick up some prescription and heard a segment of a Nick DiPaulo routine that was unbelievably politically incorrect, or, as many would say today, racist, misogynist and anti-trans. The audience was in hysterics; several of the jokes were so extreme—but funny!—that I nearly lost control of the car. I had to check: no, he hasn’t been assassinated yet. Neverthless, I felt like I had fallen into a parallel universe. DiPaulo makes Dave Chappelle seem like Art Buchwald.

2. How about “Lady Asshole”? Several readers sent me links to this story, telling us that the Grammy-winning vocal group  formerly known as Lady Antebellum, having decided to ditch the second half of their name to grandstand and show that they support tearing down statues, are now suing Anita White, a blues singer who has called herself “Lady A” for decades, because she wouldn’t sell  the rights to that name to them for a price the group found reasonable.

I can’t imagine anyone being sympathetic with the group, especially a jury. Nobody made them change their name, and choosing “Lady A” without doing sufficient research was negligent. The group is using wealth and fame as a cudgel, with three rich white jerks trying to bully a local (and black) artist into bending to the their will. I hope someone has started a GoFundMe page to help Anita with her legal fees.

3. Find my 2011 post on Donald Trump running for President, substitute Kanye West’s name for his, and you’ll have the Ethics Alarms position on Mr. Kardashian’s candidacy. I know a lot of celebrities and too many members of the public don’t comprehend this, having the civic literacy of gerbils, but our democracy is not a game. Running for President as an exercise in ego-massage and branding is wildly irresponsible, and threatens to distort voting and results. West is not a serious candidate, but he’ll attract attention and the support of those who vote purely on the basis of group biases.  But the news media will give him more attention than he deserves, which is none, and he could easily take votes away from Democrats.

The good news is that since Kanye has approximately the attention span of a mayfly, it’s a good bet that this impulse will be fleeting, just as Trump’s was in 2011. Continue reading

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: “Cult Programming In Seattle,” And the Duty To Confront

This—the George Floyd Freakout, the indoctrination in schools and colleges, the submissive endorsement of the irredeemably dishonest, racist and Marxist Black Lives Matter and its fellow travelers, the Red Scare-reminiscent punishing and shunning of dissenters, the political and partisan enforcement of laws as journalists remain silently complicit—you know, this, has  begun to make me think I’m in another remake of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What never made any sense in any of the versions (the original, with Keven McCarthy and directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame was the best) is that aliens could take over the minds and bodies of millions of Americans across the country without anyone figuring it out, and without the news media warning the world with front page headlines and “how to stop the pod people” features. It  also seemed absurd that only McCarthy and his friends (or in the much grosser but less creepy re-make, Donald Sutherland and his friends) were the only humans who appeared to have the will and the gumption to try to resist the invasion.

I also have found myself pondering the end of “Three Days of the Condor,” when Robert Redford tells a horrified CIA official that he has passed on evidence of the agency’s lawless and murderous ways to the New York Times. Who or what can be trusted today to blow the whistles when it is the increasingly totalitarian Left moving to take over minds and destroy democracy? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger”

I had two Comments of the Day to choose from to greet the morning. This one, by Lumiere, was the less depressing of the two, so you can imagine what the other one was like. However, The last paragraph in the post, a comment on the climatologist who admits in a new book that he joined his colleagues in hyping and fearmongering,  gives me hope.

My mind was already on indoctrination and the way our scientists, scholars and educators have abused the public’s trust. A truly frightening story was revealed by College Fix: an incoming freshman at Marquette, Samantha Pfefferle,  posted a (silly and obnoxious) pro-Trump video on the social media site Tik Tok, and administrators at the school began suggesting to her that her admission might be revoked because of her unacceptable beliefs. What was unacceptable about them was that, based on the video, she supported the President of the United States, ergo his policy positions. The Horror.

Pfefferle explained that following the TikTok, she was contacted by Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions at Marquette, who she said told her her acceptance to the school was far from certain.

“[He] had the heart to tell me I wasn’t a student,” Pfefferle said. “This means that my classification is still in limbo and is currently being decided by the administration. I have been accepted, I paid for my housing, I have my roommates, I even have a complete class schedule. If that doesn’t make me a student, what does?”

Some Marquette administrators also asked Pfefferle a series of questions meant to judge her morals, she said.

“They also asked me hypothetical questions regarding Dreamers,” she said. “How would I respond if a Dreamer who lived down the hall from me came up to me and told me she didn’t feel safe or comfortable with my views and me being on campus. They also asked me if they thought there was anything I could do to improve my image on campus. They proceeded to ask if I was comfortable with the reputation I have established for myself. The assistant dean asked if I put any thought into the response I would be getting from my videos.”

The “response” she was getting from her video was threats, harassment and intimidation, perhaps from Marquette students. Strange: that would seem to be the problem that administrators had a legitimate reason to be concerned about. No, they apparently approved, since the college officials decided to engage in some intimidation of their own: “Nice little college acceptance you have here…too bad if something were to happen to it..”

I would normally be skeptical that any administrators from a reputable college would challenge a student’s political opinions in the manner Pfefferle described, but Marquette confirmed that  “the admissions team did recently have a conversation with incoming freshman Samantha Pfefferle about statements made on her social media accounts.” After unwelcome publicity on several blogs and conservative websites, Marquette announced that the student’s acceptance was not in peril and had been finalized, firmly placing what the school did in the “it’s not the worst thing” category.

It was bad enough. It is unethical for educational institutions to promote viewpoint conformity among their students, yet this incident, like the confession of the suddenly remorseful climate scientist, indicates that this is increasingly how our professionals whose duty is to enlighten us see their roles: not to inform, but to indoctrinate.

Here is Lumiere’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger:

What this is? Is scary.

Not just for climate science but for EVERY SINGLE THING that has been promoted or supported by the left in the name of Science. And the willingness to punish, and silence people who disagree because “How dare you reject science?”…

The problem is mostly in the narrative. What is left out? what is emphasized? What is implied? For example “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah claims to be an objective evolutionary history of humankind (it leaves out many facts and is full of many assumptions) reads totally as socialist cant, with sufficient human bashing that presents human existence as the worst thing that has ever happened to the earth. Now a person who reads that book as their introduction to human biological history would accept its postulations as facts, become indoctrinated and would have their view of humankind changed drastically for the worse.

This kind of indoctrination is the reality in many fields of human endeavour and it’s sad to see people form such emotional attachments to ideas that makes rational discourse almost impossible

One thing I’ve learnt to do is always ask myself the question “What if you are Wrong?”. I always ask myself that question on EVERYTHING. And it informs my attitude to contrary and differing opinions…

Update: The Answer To Question 13 [Updated Again!]

The above is Reddit’s new policy. It is one more example of unthinking and unethical “answers” to systemic racism.

On June 17, in this post, I concluded with a proposed answer to my Question 13, “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?” That answer:

…special accommodations and benefits for African Americans in all things. Affirmative action in employment, promotions, salaries and school admissions; preference in grading, contracting and hiring; elimination of any standards that African Americans continue to lag in meeting. Reparations, of course; race-based leniency in law-enforcement and sentencing; plus  culture wide discrimination in favor of blacks and against whites in all things, all instituted by the intimidation, punishment and “cancelling” of anyone who dissents.

The accuracy of my prognostication has become apparent within a little more than two weeks. As Jeff Goldlum says ruefully in “Jurassic Park” as the T-Rex escapes,

Though the text of the “What We Believe” section of the Black Lives Matter site is so expansively vague and utopian that it could, literally, mean anything, in the rush to satisfy the explicit and implicit threats levied by spokespersons for the “movement” and the reality of the mobs, the woke, the cowardly, the terrified and the foolish have laid the following at the feet of the champions of “systemic race reform”

  • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced plans to “correct inequalities in healthcare coverage in the state” by  expanding health care coverage to every black Kentuckian. Of course, state benefits distributed on the basis of race are per se unconstitutional, but his announcement was widely praised.

This was among the priorities he priorities he said all Kentuckians should support on moral grounds as part of his responce to the fatal shooting of a black woman during a botched house search by Louisville police, though there was and is no evidence that the accident was triggered by race or racism.

  • Students at the University of Washington and elsewhere demanded that professors to grade black students’ finals with more leniency. Students started a petition on Change.org that asks for professors to “give Black students a break!

Over 60, 000 have signed the petition. Such a policy, which some professors have implemented, endorses openly race-based grading.

  • Following through on The University of California Board of Regents vote to restore affirmative action to the admissions process, though granting preferential treatment to applicants based on their race or gender in public education or employment has been outlawed in California since 1996, the California legislature has voted to strike these words from the state constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The debate made it clear that the intent of the amendment is to permit discrimination on the basis of race and color. It is in open defiance of basic civil rights and equal protection under the law.

UPDATE: This is as good as a place to mention his as anywhere. Don Lemon, CNN’s second dimmest anchor, recommended that it would be salutary to add Barack Obama, “front and center,” to Mt. Rushmore. The justification would be that he’s black.

  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, the avowed Marxist who was allowed to inflict her false history “1619” project on Times readers, schools and the nation, as given a platform again (in the Times Magazine) to call for reparations. Five days later, last Sunday, the paper itself devoted a its opinion section to  “The Economy We Need” (“The America We Need” online)  a series of articles by Leftist members of the Times Op-Ed staff and academics advocating reparations for African Americans, usually while not using those words. The section was headlined throughout in inch-high red block letters.

Among the most prominent articles: “Banks Should Face History and Cancel Black Debt Now. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger was a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and he was and is the founder and president of Environmental Progress. Now he has a  best-selling  book, Apocalypse Never, published at the end of last month. I haven’t read it, and I wouldn’t have the expertise to know whether it was right or wrong. It could be that he is violently rejecting the official climate change hysterics line to fill a profitable contrarian niche, though that would be out of character based on his reputation. It may just be that he is telling the truth, and exposing what was, or should have been, pretty evident for a long time. As he puts it his article,

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening, it’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30, so I may seem like a strange person to be saying this.

But as an energy expert asked by the US Congress to provide objective expert testimony and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as an Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.

Well, we knew that, didn’t we? The usual people denied it, but was so, so obvious that from Al Gore on, this was science weaponized for political and partisan purposes, by scientists seeking grants and peer approval. One doomsday prediction after another came and went, one model after another failed, and yet the refrain persisted. Climate scientists who were tempted to break ranks were intmidated: as galileo demonstarted, it is not a field often distinguished by courage and sacrifice. Shellenberger writes,

“[U]ntil last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an ‘existential’ threat to human civilization and called it a ‘crisis.’ But mostly, I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.”

The cancel culture is after Shellenberger even as I write this, for he’s perceived as a traitor.  Forbes, which initially published his mea culpa, pulled it down after being bombarded with social media protests, then gave no substantive explanation for why. Well, they really didn’t have to, I suppose.

Shellenberger lists “some facts few people know,” such as,

  • Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction’
  • The Amazon is not ‘the lungs of the world’
  • Climate change is not definitively making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have declined in Britain, Germany, and France from the mid-1970s
  • Netherlands is becoming richer, not poorer while adapting to life below sea level
  • We produce 25 per cent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

…and more, then later lists some of the conclusions from his book, among them:

  • Factories and modern farming are key to human liberation and environmental progress
  • The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land
  • The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium
  • 100 per cent renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5 pc to 50 pc
  • ‘Free-range’ beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300 pc more emissions

…and he asks, “Why were we so misled?”

We know the answer to that, too.

Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

In Harpers, a grab-bag of pundits, artists, has-beens and assorted progressives/liberals were persuaded to sign an open letter protesting the “cancel culture” and bemoaning its suffocating effect on free expression and debate.

Tangent: Lots of people wrote that they didn’t recognize most of the names. I know 28 of them, and several, like Ron Sullivan, Emily Yoffe, and Dahlia Lithwick, have been subjects of posts here. Not only that, one signer is a college classmate (Nadine Strossen) and another, Diedre McCloskey, was a next door neighbor when I lived with my parents in Arlington, Mass.)

“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement,” the epistle says in part.

Apparently allowing prominent conservatives to sign the letter was considered “divisive,” or the organizers could only get the leftists to join in if the righties were excluded. This restriction of expression in a letter about censorship undercuts the message, don’t you think? To make sure no dedicated conservatives agitated to sign, the letter cleverly included this poison pill:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing, Continue reading

And Today’s “Madness! Madness!” Item Of The Day: “The Unintentional Racism Found In Traffic Signals”

I didn’t make that title up. “The Unintentional Racism Found in Chex Mix,” I made up. Not  the other one.

You can read the article here.

The writer, David Kaufman, says in the article that he is black, so I’ll take his word for it. I’m not going to fisk or rebut the piece, any more than you would take the time fir rebut my Chex Mix conspiracy theory, if I really wrote it down. Both articles inhabit the special category  of “res ipsa loquitur” reserved for things that, without further analysis or explication, prove that their creator is mentally ill, or, in the alternative, trying, for whatever reason, to make people believe waht isn’t so, or, possibly engaging in satire. When you  read the article, the latter possibility is quicklyerases, and so is the second. The author is serious. He is deranged.

Here’s one section, just to illustrate:

“And there you have it: The government-approved origins of the “little White men” telling us to cross the street at corners across New York….I am now convinced that technology and necessity, rather than some anti-Black conspiracy, propelled the shift from verbal crosswalk cues to a lunar-white Walking Person. But my heart still sinks at the specter of teaching my sons to ask a White man for permission to do — well, anything. Because so much of the world already insists that we do.”

Continue reading

Warning! You Never Know What Someone Is Going To Decide Is Racist…

These four Jimmy John bozos were fooling around, playing with dough. One made a noose with the dough, except that nooses aren’t made out of dough, so it wasn’t a noose. He then looped the dough-noose over his neck, as you can see. Then they posted the hilarity on YouTube.

  • They would not have done this, presumably, if they thought it was a demonstration of racism.
  • There were no African Americans present who could decide that the dough-noose was some kind of threat.
  • Nothing in the video suggests a racist attitudes or a racial motive….

Continue reading