Instagram Shows Us Once Again That Social Media Is Dedicated To Rigging Public Debate And Discourse To Ensure Progressive Policies

But conservatives are the autocrats and fascists.

This thoughtful and provocative cartoon by Adam Ford, the founder of the  conservative satire site, The Babylon Bee, was banned as “hate speech” by Instagram:

Observations:

1. Blaming this on a flawed algorithm won’t wash. Yes, it is difficult to write programs to identify genuine non-substantive speech designed only to insult denigrate or defend, and this means that a fair and competent social media platform must lean toward being over-permissive rather than unjustly and illogically censorious.

2. Obviously, the cartoon doesn’t qualify as hate speech even under the vaguest and most sweeping definition of a term that is too flexible anyway. The comparison between slavery and abortion isn’t new, and it keeps arising because abortion advocates have yet to rebut it. Both issues involve what one side believes is a human rights violation that is defended by denying the humanity of the victims, or arguing that the abuse of the victims is justified by the benefits to those abusing them. The analogy has been raised in films (such as “The Island”) and television (as on a memorable episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The cartoon could be and should be used in classroom discussions on the question of abortion.

3. For that to happen, however, people have to see it, and be allowed to think. Social media, when it censors speech and opinion that offend the sensibilities of the “woke” simply because such speech challenge progressive ideology and cant, isn’t “protecting its users.” It is protecting its allies from having to prevail in policy debates with facts, logic and ethics by bluntly silencing dissent. This is becoming a bad and frightening habit. In his new book “”A Thousand Small Sanities,” liberal commentator David Gropnik writes, “The contemporary left can sometimes seem to have an insufficient respect for the fragility of the very same liberal institutions that allow its views to be broadcast without impediments.” Ya think??

4. Meanwhile, the controversy isn’t being covered by the mainstream media at all, at least not yet. Thus other institutions are enabling social media’s content-based ideological censorship by not publicizing it. All the better to have the metaphorical frog of the American public boiled slowly in progressive censorship before they know what’s going on. (Yes, you pedants out there, I know that you can’t really boil a frog to death slowly, but that’s the old myth.)

5. One overly kind Christian website tried to come up with ways Instagram might have legitimately concluded that the cartoon was hate speech:

There is another possible reason Instagram flagged Ford’s post in question. Throughout the comic, which equivocates old hypothetical pro-slavery arguments with modern pro-choice rhetoric, Ford refers to black people as “blacks” — a term often flagged as offensive, though some style guides do permit “black” to be used as a noun as well as an adjective. While Instagram does not specifically forbid the use of “black” as a noun in their community guidelines, it does require users to only “post photos and videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience.”

Even accepting this theory, the censorship is unethical and ominous. So if “some people” find a term that is generally accepted elsewhere as “offensive,” that justifies banning a substantive message? It is still oppressive speech policing no matter how one looks at it.

Ethics Hero: Montana Firefighter Presley Pritchard

This is how female empowerment is supposed to work.

Presley Pritchard was a paramedic who aspired to be a firefighter. She was told, however, that at 120 pounds (that’s the “before” photo on the left above) she was too small and weak for the physically demanding job. Did she sue? Did she take advantage of reduced strength and fitness qualifications to get what she wanted anyway? Did she try to find a firefighting outfit that had a “diversity” quota to meet? Did she give up? Did she decide that she treasured her Size 2 wardrobe more than her ambition?

No, what Presley Pritchard did was begin a long, tough training regimen involving weight training and power-lifting along with a muscle-building diet and increased caloric intake. She raised her body weight by 30%, and aced the firefighter fitness requirements, allowing her to join Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana without any relaxed standards. She writes, Continue reading

“Reputation Laundering” And The Dirty Money Fallacy

Meharry Medical College is a 143-year-old historically black institution in Tennessee. Last week it announced that it had received the second-largest grant in its history, a $7.5 million gift to study public health issues that affect African-Americans.

But the gift has prompted attacks from African-American health experts and activists. The source of the funds, Juul Labs, is the fast-growing e-cigarette company and partially owned by the tobacco giant Altria. “Juul is cozying up to the black community, and that makes it harder for some parts of the black community to call them out on their targeting of African-Americans,” says Sharon Y. Eubanks, who is an advisory board member of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California. By “targeting African-Americans”, she means that the company and Altria market its completely legal products to blacks (among other groups), who choose to buy them. [Full disclosure: I worked as an ethics consultant for Altria for many years, and enjoyed the relationship tremendously. Altria was the reason I shaved my head.]

According to the NAACP’s Youth Against Menthol campaign, about 85 percent of African-American smokers aged 12 and older smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, and Juul markets menthol pods while Altria markets menthol versions of its cigarettes, like Marboro.  And how, exactly, is the African -American community helped if Meharry,  the nation’s largest medical research center at a historically black institution, refuses the Juul grant to demonstrate, well, something?

You got me. This, however, is part of a growing fad among the virtuous and the “woke”—refusing to allow organizations, entities and families that they have decided are bad from using  alleged ill-gotten gains to do good. Continue reading

Most Unethical Abortion Ruling Ever?

“OK, now where’s my gavel?”

You have to hand it to the Brits: I would have thought that it was impossible to come up with an abortion ruling that simultaneously violates the core principles of both pro- and anti-abortion advocates. Mostly, however, the ruling places one more slippery slope quiver among the anti-abortion movement’s  metaphorical arrows. This is what can happen when unborn human life is accorded no respect whatsoever.

Yesterday, Justice Nathalie Lieven issued the ruling at the Court of Protection, which hears cases on issues relating to people who lack the mental capability to make decisions for themselves. She ordered an abortion for a mentally-disabled woman who is 22 weeks pregnant, although both she and her mother wanted the baby to be born.  The judge said the decision was in the best interests of the woman, and, of course, the Court knows best. Presumably it did not think the abortion was in the best interests of the unborn child, which apparently was healthy and unimpaired.

But I’m just guessing at that.

The unidentified woman is in her 20s and reportedly has the mental capacity of a 6- to 9-year-old child. Nobody is certain how she became pregnant, but obviously that was not a determining factor in the decision, nor should it have been. The unborn child doesn’t care.

“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” Justice Lieven said, but held that in the woman’s “best interests, not on society’s views of termination,” the baby must go.  Wait, what? How is aborting a child that both the potential mother and her own mother want to have and care for in the woman’s best interests? Or anyone’s best interests, other than members of the “It’s no baby, its an invading clump of cells that you better kill fast before it grows anymore” cult? Continue reading

Gee. What A Surprise. Pot Damages Brains.

Have you ever had the experience of knowing immediately and without question that something was wrong, and have everyone around you argue, and smirk, and yell, and posture, and insult, and mock, and still know you are right, and then be ignored only to have the fact show you were right all along, as you knew you would be?

That’s been my experience with marijuana. At this point, I’m no longer angry about it, frustrated or even sad. I’m resigned. I’m not accepting, because that’s not how I’m wired. This isn’t even the only issue like this: I will not be surprised when in future years there will be other cultural suicidal decisions that I (and many others) warned about and tried to explain why they were utterly, stupidly, indefensibly wrong. We may just open the borders. We may gut the First Amendment, or try to ban guns. We may swallow the poison pill of socialism, or worse. I won’t be surprised. I have learned that the entropy of society drifts toward idiocy, ignorance and self-destruction. I know I am lucky that I was born quite a bit smarter than  my typical fellow citizen, but they are not lucky that they so, so overwhelm me and people like me when it comes to guiding our cultural ship.

The New York Times article, authored by Kenneth L. Davis, the president and chief executive of the Mount Sinai Health System and Mary Jeanne Kreek,  head of the Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Rockefeller University, is titled “Marijuana Damages Young Brains.”

It essentially outlines a public health crisis, and more: it explains that we are not merely legaizing but preparing to market and promote a “recreational drug” that will make the public even dumber and less intellectually capable now than they already are. They write, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2019: Rhode Island On My Mind Edition

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Good morning!

I’m heading up to Little Rhodey in a few hours to once again collaborate with my brilliant Ethics Rock musician Mike Messer before the Rhode Island Bar, as well as to try to back about 7 hours of legal ethics and technology commentary into a 75 minute break-out session.

1. Once again, law vs ethics.The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld those lame duck laws the GOP legislature passed to hamstring the new Democratic Governor. It is the correct decision. The measures were unethical, but legal, just like Mitch McConnell’s gambit to refuse giving Merrick Garland a hearing, just like Harry Reid’s “reconciliation” maneuver to get the amended Affordable Care Act passed without having to send it  back to the House.

2. Correct, but futile.  From the Washington Post: Continue reading

Are “Pre-Crime” Measures Absolutely Unethical?

Yes.

I guess that would be a too-short essay on an important topic with special contemporary relevance, so I am bound to say more. Nonetheless, I would be more comfortable with my fellow society members and more confident of the future of the the nation if the answer to the title query was universally accepted in absolute terms. For the acceptance of the principle of pre-crime is dangerous. It places less than a spiked mountain-climber’s boot on a slippery slope to totalitarianism, which is the real-life equivalent of the Devil in the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons,” both the play and the movie, based on the writings of Sir Thomas More, in which  More emotionally refuses to arrest a man because of the evil  he might do, before he has actually broken any laws:

More’s Wife: Arrest him!

Sir Thomas More: For what?

Wife: He’s dangerous!

William Roper (More’s Son in Law): He’s a spy.

Margaret (More’s daughter): Father, that man’s bad.

More: There’s no law against that.

Roper: There is – God’s law.

More: Then God can arrest him.

Wife: While you talk, he’s gone.

More: And go he should, were he the Devil himself, until he broke the law.

Roper: So, now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law?

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Few more profound and important thoughts have been so eloquently and powerfully  presented in a motion picture as this scene from “A Man For All Seasons,” to which I will note (again) in passing, “Rotten Tomatoes” gives a lower score than “Birdman,”a fact that provides a disturbing snapshot of the state of our education, culture and priorities in 2019.

Both political parties have placed their feet on this slippery slope in the past. The essence of pre-crime is punishing a citizen for what he or she is, rather than for what he or she has done, on the theory that what an individual is makes that person “dangerous,” in the words of Mrs. More, for what they might do. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the Supreme Court that backed him) was responsible for probably the worst example of pre-crime in our history, when the United States, in full panic mode after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, imprisoned loyal Japanese-American citizens as a precautionary measure. Another panic, also not entirely groundless, led to a pre-crime mentality during the Red Scare and McCarthy episodes, seeking to punish Americans who belonged to the dreaded Communist Party, a nonetheless legal organization.

To be abundantly clear, I will define pre-crime as when the government removes a civil right, a Constitutional right, from a citizen, not as punishment for breaking a law, but based on what that individual believes, says, is or is understood to be. Continue reading