Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship

From the New York Times:

Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future.

And what does “similar books” mean?

Based on what I’ve seen from our tech giants, “similar books” could soon include a scientist’s arguments against climate change, a hagiography of President Trump, or an expose of the  misconduct of the Obama Administration. Amazon has decided that anti-vax arguments are dangerous and wrong, and though I happen to agree with them, it is not Amazon’s job to decide what ideas, positions, opinions and theories are worthy of public consumption. Amazon dominated the book retail business (and many other businesses as well). Its censorship policies constrain debate, the free expression of ideas, and the expression of dissent from the majority.

Defenders of civil liberties and freedom of speech must express their disapproval of Amazon’s Big Brother act, even if it has the “right” to abuse its power, and even if it isn’t the government choosing which citizens to muzzle. Conduct like this places me squarely on the side of Elizabeth Warren, who is advocating breaking up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. When we start allowing speech labeled “dangerous” or “untrue” to be blocked, no matter who is doing the blocking, then we are damaging our democracy and the free circulation of ideas, as well as abetting elite attempts at thought control.

 

The Child-Molesting Pitcher, Chapter 2

Last spring, I posted an ethics quiz about Luke Heimlich:

Luke Heimlich is a rising college baseball star pitcher at Oregon State,  and may well have a future in Major League Baseball. There is a problem though:  Heimlich, 22,  pleaded guilty to  sexually molesting his 6-year-old niece when he was 15 years old. The further complication: he denies that he committed the crime, which was not just one incident but a pattern over two years. He told The New York Times that he only pleaded guilty to ” for the sake of family relations.” “Nothing ever happened,” he told the paper. The girl’s mother, however, says there is no question that he was guilty.”

The question then was whether Heimlich should be allowed to play college baseball. I wrote,

” what does it say about this man’s character that he pleaded guilty to get a lenient deal, and now blandly says that he was lying? I’d view him as more trustworthy if he admitted the crime, was remorseful and repentant, and accepted responsibility. If he did molest the girl, and still denies it, one can hardly say that he has been rehabilitated…”

I’m not sure I was firing on all cylinders when I wrote that, though. He pleaded guilty because that was, by far, the least risky course: I might have advised him to whether he was guilty or not. If he wasn’t guilty, then he’s telling the truth now about “lying” to avoid a harsher sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, the reader poll results indicated a strong majority favoring letting the pitcher get on with his life, and his baseball career.

And now, the rest of the story… Continue reading

Hey, Oprah: Why Is Michael Jackson A Child Molester Now If He Wasn’t A Month Ago?

Stipulated: I have long-believed that Michael Jackson was a probably a pedophile. The circumstantial evidence is voluminous; he was obviously beset with psychological and emotional problems, he had the wealth and influence to cover up his conduct, and a grown man who admits to sharing a bed with young boys and insists there is nothing wrong with it is justifiably suspect. However, the plain facts are that Jackson has never been proven to be a child molester.

In case you haven’t followed this story, here is the Wikipedia entry on Jackson’s first molestation scandals—it’s long, but we can’t fairly discuss it without common reference points. A bulleted summary from that article: Continue reading

I Expect Non-Lawyers And Journalists To Misunderstand This Basic Legal Ethics Principle….But HARVARD LAW SCHOOL?

Kaboom.

This is a repeat issue, so I could make this short and link to the previous Ethics Alarms post on this annoying subject, or  here, when I defended Hillary Clinton when she was being called a hypocrite for once defending  a child rapist, or maybe the post titled,  No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes.or this post, when liberal icon and former Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe was representing a coal company. I have vowed, however, that if I accomplish nothing else with this blog, I will do my best to put a stake through the ignorant and destructive idea that lawyers only represent clients they agree with, admire, or personally support. Here its is again, the ABA rule that is quoted somewhere in every jurisdiction’s attorney conduct regulations. Let’s do it really big this time:

ABA Model Rule 1.2(b): “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”

Got that? Memorize it Print it out and carry it in your wallet, and hand it to your ignorant loud-mouth family member who complains about those scum-bag lawyers who represent bad people. Post it on social media and  in online comment sections where people are bloviating about the same. idiotic misconception.

What we can do about Harvard, however, I just don’t know. You know what they say, “Get woke, lose all respect and credibility as a trustworthy advocate for civil rights and the Rule of Law.” Okay, I’m going to have to work on that… Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/2019: Evil On The Web

Hi-

–just had to change the title from “morning” to “afternoon..

1. Pro sports team owners behaving badly. In the span of a week, one NFL owner, the Patriots’ Bob Kraft, was embarrassed by an arrest while seeking “happy endings” in massage parlor dabbling in illegal prostitution, and the President and CEO of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer, was videoed having a public battle with his wife over possession of his cell phone that ended with her screaming and on the floor of a restaurant. Kraft is being charged with solicitation, and Baer is taking a leave of absence after apologizing to fans.

Should private misconduct unrelated to team affairs warrant league discipline in cases like this? Absolutely. Pro sports sell heroes to the culture, and the leaders of any organization sets the ethical tone and molds the culture. If you aren’t equipped to be an ethical exemplar for your players and its fans, especially its young fans, then don’t buy a team.

2. In the “Hoisted by their own petard” files: Constantly woke Google, seeking to burnish its social justice credentials,  conducted a pay equity analysis for 2018 to make sure it was paying women equal pay for equal work. Surprise!  The study found that the company was underpaying men for doing similar work as their female counterparts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The company emphasized in a blog post that despite this pay discrepancy, deeper structural issues can continue to lead to pay disparities between men and women.

Elephant? What elephant?

3.  To be fair, Google did retire its “Don’t be evil” motto. Google will reportedly reject  calls from US lawmakers and human rights activists to remove a Saudi government app that allows men to control where women travel. The ap offers alerts if and when women leave the country. Saudi law says every woman must have a male guardian. The app, called Absher, has been condemned members of Congress and human rights groups.

4. ‘The solution to discrimination and prejuduce is more discrimination and prejudice…’ Bumble, the feminist dating site, is launching a women-only filter for its professional networking tool, Bumble Bizz. The new Women in Bizz feature, which can be turned on or off in app settings, excludes men from a user’s pool of potential connections. The idea is to help a traditionally underrepresented workforce connect and build support systems outside the office. Bumble is claiming that this is just an extension of Bumble’s core women-first mission. The  dating app lets women make the first move and message their romantic matches first. Now, Bumble claims,  it’s helping traditionally outnumbered female employees build a women-only network.

The problem with this analogy is that there is nothing unethical against women asking out men. Exclusion from job and career opportunities on the basis of gender (and race, age, ethnicity…) endorses discrimination in order to oppose it.

5. Saw this coming a mile away… On the same day Christian baker Jack Phillips won his 7-2 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning his conviction for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a lawyer targeted his Masterpiece Cakeshop by demanding that he  bake a gender transition cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Then, when he refused as the lawyer knew he would, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s decision again found probable cause that state law required him to bake and design the cake when doing so would go against his religious beliefs. Phillips responded by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. I considered writing about this at the time, but decided to wait until the Commission again got slapped down, or it withdrew its complaint. Yesterday it withdrew its complaint, and Phillips dropped his law suit.

The first time around, I found Jack to be a Jerk by refusing to bake the wedding cake, though I felt he had a plausible case that he couldn’t be forced to do so. This time, however, he was targeted by a far bigger jerk, and I salute him for being willing to go back onto the battlefield. Too many advocates for LGBT causes have become the intolerant bullies they once opposed, seeking to punish and destroy anyone who doesn’t think as they do, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission proved that it has become an agent of such bullying. Like most bullies, however, it backed down when confronted with the prospect of losing.

6. And speaking of the frightening totalitarian tilt of today’s Left...Or, if you prefer, the way big tech companies are illicitly using their power to favor the interests of progressive-favored groups by stifling dissent, Amazon is now in the business of viewpoint censorship and deciding which books are fit for public perusal. The online retailer owned by the publisher of the Washington Post—you know, “Democracy dies in darkness”?  has just dropped the book “Mohammed’s Koran” by the controversial British activist Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin.

Coauthor Peter McLoughlin states:

[T]his is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Nazis taking out the books from university libraries and burning them. Can you think of another scholarly book on Islam that has been banned by Amazon? “Mein Kampf” is for sale on Amazon. As are books like the terrorist manual called “The Anarchist Cookbook.”…[They] refuse to reinstate the book and refuse to explain why it has been banned. So they have banned the No.1 best-selling exegesis of the Koran. I can’t get my head round it. Every few weeks for the past 18 months they had emailed me asking to put it into special sales programmes, as it was selling so well. For 18 months they sought to profit even more from the sales. As dark as my vision is. I thought we were 10 to 20 years away from dissenting books from being banned.”

In related news, Facebook still won’t allow Ethics Alarms posts…

 

 

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools” [Item #6]

The Horror! It’s an outrage! Send it to Hell! Well, not Hell, exactly, because that would be acknowledging religion. OK, let me start again…

Ethics Alarms used to have its own in-house atheist activist, and this is one of the times that I miss him: he would undoubtedly have a fascinating rebuttal to this Comment of the Day. I’m old enough to remember when Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the most hated woman in America for challenging the Constitutionality of school prayer, and winning.  (Remind me to tell the story of the time I spoke to O’Hair on a call-in TV talk show, posing as God.) Although I have come to agree that she was right (she later said she wished she hadn’t raised the issue), it still seems to me that atheists are more obsessed with religion than most religious people are, and their passionate antipathy borders on the pathological. The SCOTUS case that sparked this COTD is a good example: is it really necessary to attack a nearly one hundred year old war memorial because the design is a cross?

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on item #6 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools”:

This isn’t the first one of these cross lawsuits, as has been discussed here a few times, and it sure as the devil won’t be the last. The problem isn’t really even with atheism, at least as the title for those who never have believed or choose not to believe in any god or gods. The First Amendment’s about as clear as any law can be that no one here can be forced to believe or disbelieve anything. America is still over 70% religious, and those religious Americans are overwhelmingly Christian, though how strongly so is up for discussion. Those who belong to no particular religion vary almost as much as those who do, from people raised in whatever faith who just drifted away at some point in life and never went back, to those raised without any faith who just never bothered with it, to agnostics, who think the presence of God is beyond knowing, to those who think religion’s all a bunch of hooey and choose to have nothing to do with it. It’s a minority of non-believers who are actively hostile to religion, but, unfortunately, those are the ones that get all the press.

As someone who is at least nominally a Catholic, and as someone who strongly dislikes one particular faith (Islam) I will venture a guess that those who dislike religion generally feel and think about it the way I do about that one particular faith I dislike. We can also both marshal some arguments that sound compelling. I can say that Islamic thought is incompatible with the Western way of doing things, that their history is checkered and shows an unhealthy propensity to impose itself by violence, and that a lot of their holy scriptures are downright scary. However, those opposed to religion generally can also say that ancient religion generally isn’t compatible with a world of the internet and surgery and science, that religion doesn’t have the greatest history generally, and that most holy scriptures are problematic, including the Bible, which, at least in the Old Testament, got the most basic moral question, slavery, wrong. Of course all these arguments are simplistic as phrased, and aren’t so absolute when you look at them in more detail, but that takes time and thought. The difference is, though, if I speak out against Islam, (which I have) I have to tread carefully lest I be deemed a hater, while those who speak out against all religion are not deemed haters. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Is This Fair?

Just kidding!

Of course it’s not fair.

In fact, it’s ridiculous. So the real question is, why does anyone, activist or otherwise, argue with a straight face that it is fair?

That photo is from Oct. 13, 2018, when  transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon of Canada won the  UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Carson, California. The other cyclist is Carolien Van Herrikhuyzen of the Netherlands. The other competitors were similar in stature and build to Carolien. She was born female, and unlike McKinnon, grew up female.

It makes a difference.

In fact, as Martina Navratilova wrote in a February 17 op-ed for The Sunday Times of London, “It’s insane and it’s cheating.” Well, it’s not cheating if a sport says it isn’t. It is, however, insanely unfair, and unarguably unfair. Advocates, like McKinnon herself, an educated trans woman, actually try to deny these conclusions that are as plain as that photograph. In her debate with the legendary tennis star, she argued,

 “She imagines a nonexistent cisgender man who will pretend to be a trans woman, convince a psychologist and a physician to prescribe hormone therapy, undertake the process for legal changer recognition, then wait the minimum 12 months of testosterone suppression required by the current IOC rules, compete, and then change his mind and ‘go back to making babies’? No such thing will ever happen. This is an irrational fear of trans women.”

But, significantly, she does not argue against Navratilova’s central assertion (which she garbled badly by making the lame slippery slope argument), which is that it’s unfair to allow women who have matured as men to compete against women who haven’t. Obviously. Look at the picture.

I’ve discussed the ethics of allowing trans athletes to compete against non-trans competitors, and frankly, the only interesting part of the topic is that fear of trans activists and being accused of bigotry has succeeded in so many locales in bullying officials into allowing it. It is unfair. It is obviously unfair. It destroys the integrity of the competition; it makes women’s sports a joke. Why do they allow it? Well, this is a small but revealing example of how ideology can strangle common sense and reality when those committed to the ideology find facts and ethics hostile to the world as they would like it to be. The result is that people, with nothing but good intentions, convince themselves that wrong is right and that what doesn’t work, does. Continue reading