Category Archives: The Internet

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/19: Irony, Absentee, And General Lee

Good evening, Ethics Lovers!

Those of you who are older than me will recall that Spike Jones used to call his audience “music lovers.” I have strived to be the Spike Jones of ethics.

1. Oh, you know you want it: today’s Jussie Smollett ethics items!

  • Do we really have to say “alleged” when talking about Smollett’s hoax? Well, we you have to say “alleged” about every fact about someone that has not been the object of a jury trial? The use of “alleged” has to do with formal guilt, not opinion or unavoidable conclusions. Yes, responsible journalism ethics requires “alleged” is such situations as Smollett’s, indeed various ethics codes state this in black and white. But “we” are not journalists, and “we” have eyes, ears and brains. This isn’t a case, as with the accustaions against Brett Kavanaugh, where there is an unsupported, unsubstantiated allegation: that’s “alleged” by definition. This isn’t: with the exception of the fact that Smollett refuses to admit what he did, the evidence is overwhelming, and his original story makes less sense the more you think about it.

It’s OK to say he did it.

  • Here’s Jussie’s lawyers’ statement from yesterday. Beginning by claiming that we had witnessed “an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” Smollett’s legal team said,

“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Observations: 1) The police statement yesterday was indeed excessive. This kind of angry denunciation of anyone accused of a crime taints the jury pool. Prosecutors have been disciplined for making public statements like that. 2) Calling Smollett a man of impeccable character is giggle-inducing, but not a lie. If the lawyer thinks that, he can say it, and nobody can prove he’s lying. 3) Ah! The lawyer says that Smollett maintains his innocence, and not that Smollett IS innocent. That’s how lawyers are supposed to phrase it in such circumstances.

  • From the “bias makes you bat-shit crazy” files: The Daily Caller tracked down Jussie’s anti-Trump tweets, which hint at a motive for claiming that racist and homophobic Trump supporters roughed him up. Here are a few…

“Trump stole a presidency. White supremacist cabinet. Syrians being exterminated. Tell DC 2 get real criminals & let the kid smoke her damn j”… “Get that dude out of office as president…”…”Pathetic excuse by U.S.”President” to show no condolence & further sell/spew/spit his white supremest, xenophobic, racism as fact. GTFOH”…”Shut the hell up you bitch ass nigga. You will continue to run this country further into the ground and risk lives every time you breathe. You’re not the president. Just a dumpster full of hate. FOH. Sick to my stomach that literal shit currently represents America to the world.”

Nice. Fox, which features “Empire,” apparently allowed a star to spout hate like this on social media assuming that fans of the show loved the Trump Hate. The tweet that will haint Jussie, I suspect, is this one, from 2016:

“The Trump way of campaigning… Take a pile of bullshit lies, sprinkle a drop of truth on top & call it “FACT”. I pray we aren’t this dumb”

How ironic! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Social Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

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Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/6/2019: State of the Union Ethics, And More

Hello, Austin!

At least, that’s what I’ll be saying later today, as I arrive in the Texas capital to give my country music ethics seminar, sung by the remarkable Mike Messer, to a group of over a thousand corporate lawyers. It’s certainly better than lying around coughing, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

1. Update: Facebook still won’t accept Ethics Alarms links. This is seriously depressing me. I can’t get Facebook to respond or explain, and so far WordPress hasn’t been any help either. In the past, posts here have attracted tens of thousands of Facebook shares; most got at least a couple. Now there are none. This affects traffic, it affects everything. On one level, I’m tempted just to leave Facebook entirely. It’s not a very pleasant place these days, and the company is despicable. That doesn’t solve the problem though. After all the work and time I have spent trying to develop the blog, watching its readership and circulation go backwards is infuriating. I also don’t know how paranoid I should be about all of this.

2. State of the Union notes. The speech is always political theater, and largely irrelevant unless it is botched or something weird happens, like “You lie!” or Obama attacking the Supreme Court. I find it amazing that so many pundits couldn’t keep their cognitive dissonance in check, and give some semblance of an honest, if grudging, analysis of what one would have to call an excellent performance—and that’s all the SOTU speech is, a performance— by Donald Trump standards, and a wise performance from a Presidential perspective. At a time of near maximum divisiveness, the speech was upbeat, optimistic, and patriotic. You have to really, really hate the man to condemn that speech….and that’s how most of journalists and pundits feel. I especially liked Salon’s “Donald Trump 2019: Same lying racist he was last year.”  CNN’s Van Jones was also self-indicting, saying,  “I saw this as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop. He tries to put together in the same speech these warm, kind things about humanitarianism and caring about children, and at the same time he is demonizing people who are immigrants in a way that was appalling.”  On the other side of the wacko divide, Ann Coulter called the speech “sappy” and was upset because Trump didn’t talk more about the wall. Is there anyone other than Coulter than wants him to talk more about the wall? We need a special confirmation bias clinic for these people. Also: Continue reading

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Ethics Run-Down, 2/5/2019: Neeson And Nipples

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down.

1. THANK YOU…Ethics Alarms readers who contributed—by tuning in to the Puppy Bowl or something, anything— to the NFL’s worst ratings for a Super Bowl in a decade, and by some metrics (percentage of homes) the worst ratings ever. True, nobody knows exactly what kept viewers away—the looming Kaepernick controversy, the blah game, LA being sick of getting beaten by Boston, the prospect of being preached to by virtue-signaling corporations, the uninspiring half-time show, families being smart enough to try to steer their kids away from football—but progress is progress. Someone will have to explain to me the “boring game” theory: who does someone know the game is going to be boring without watching it?

2. Oh, Great—thanks to Liam Neeson, we are one step closer to punishing thought crimes. What possessed the often thoughtful actor to expound on a period in his life when he hated blacks?

In an interview, published by The Independent,  Neeson, who specializes in revenge fantasy action movies, that 40 years ago he walked the streets with a weapon looking for black men to attack because friend of his had been raped by a man she identified as African American. The actor said he “went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence”.

Now he is being attacked as a racist. And he’s surprised? The governor of Virginia is being attacked as a racist for dressing up as Michael Jackson when he was a student, and he wasn’t even trying to hurt anybody. Liam, Liam, Liam. Asked what he wanted people to learn from his experience, he told ABC’s Robin Roberts today, “To talk. To open up…We all pretend we’re all politically correct in this country…in mine, too. You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there. ”

Fine. Everyone has unethical, even evil thoughts and impulses on occasion. If we are normal, ethical, rational and reasonable, we deal with them in a healthy way. There is nothing unethical about thoughts. Unfortunately, we are plagued in the culture right now with those who want to dictate our thoughts and punish those who do not conform in order to control our liberties, expression and conduct. Neeson just gave those people, and Hollywood, where he works, is crawling with them, an opening to punish thoughts, specifically his.

Next time, Liam, talk to a priest, a psychiatrist, a spouse, a trusted friend, anyone but a journalist. If there is a next time: I fully expect Neeson to be effectively blackballed in his profession.

3. KABOOM! The stupidest Super Bowl ethics controversy ever! Actress Abigail Breslin—you may recall her fondly  in “Little Miss Sunshine,” not so fondly as “Baby” in the beyond horrible live TV version of “Dirty Dancing”— doesn’t understand why why Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was allowed to go topless during his Super Bowl performance when Janet Jackson was so heavily criticized for her contrived nipple flashing during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show. “Nipplegate” got CBS a $550,000 fine.

Levine removed his shirt to show off his heavily tattooed body as he performed, and a number of social media users, including celebrities, questioned why it was OK to see his top half and not Janet’s. You know. Morons.

“I have nothing against Adam Levine whatsoever and actually am a huge fan but it’s messed up that society seems it acceptable for him to be shirtless during the halftime show and Janet Jackson was chastised because her top half was accidentally exposed at the same event. #doublestandards,” Breslin tweeted. “It’s unfair that she was ridiculed for an accident that wasn’t even her fault but a man can take his shirt off on stage and it’s no problem….I’m saying neither should be fined. Or both should be fined. It’s not fair an accidental slip is cause for a fine but a man ripping his shirt off on stage is chill. It should be a fine for both or a fine for none.”

Actress Rosie Perez—is she more or less of a hasbeen than Breslin?— tweeted “Okay. Hold up. Are they going to go in and penalize # AdamLevine for showing his t*ts like they did @JanetJackson ? Just asking.”

Ugh. As Ethics Alarms has explained before, there was nothing accidental about Jackson’s flashing, and the risible claim that poor Janet had a “costume malfunction” (wink-wink) has entered the realm of fake history, less annoying but equally as false as “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” But never mind that: have these actresses never been to a beach? A volleyball tournament? Do they live in nudist colony? Civilized society permits some parts of the male anatomy to be exposed in public, while some parts of the female anatomy are not considered appropriate for public display. The system has worked pretty well. Are feminists really going to try to label this a form of sexism?

On multiple fronts, it is beginning to appear that progressive cant is spinning into self-parody.

Here’s Adam, by the way:

 

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time finding his nipples.

 

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Groundhog Day Ethics Warm-Up: 2/2/2019

Happy Groundhog Day!

1. Gov. Northam ethics Updates  a)There are reports that Virginia’s beleaguered governor will resign tomorrow. b) Then again, maybe not. The Times has this amazing story:

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, facing intense pressure to resign from fellow Democrats after admitting that he posed for a photo in a racist costume as a medical student more than 30 years ago, was calling state Democrats on Saturday to say he did not think it was him in the picture and that he would not resign… in phone calls on Saturday morning he said he had no recollection of the yearbook image of two men, one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes….

In addition to calling state Democratic officials, Mr. Northam has been calling former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School in an effort to determine more information about the picture — and to survive a crisis that is threatening his year-old governorship, according to a Democrat familiar with Mr. Northam’s calls.

This Democrat said the governor was determined to prove it was not him in the photograph and was even considering using facial recognition software. The governor, the Democrat said, had wanted to take responsibility on Friday night, which was why he apologized for appearing in the picture without acknowledging which person he was in the image.

Now he has to resign because he has proven that he’s an idiot. He began by admitting that he was definitely one of the two men in the photo and apologizing. If he wasn’t, does that mean that there’s another photo of Northam in a Klan get-up or in blackface? Why would he admit to dressing up in blackface or as a Klansman if he never did so? Was this so routine for him that he wouldn’t remember if he did it or not that particular time? Was he lying when he admitted that he was in the photo–and why would he do that?—-or lying now in a desperate attempt to save his career? Ugh. Show some dignity, man.

c) Conservative bloggers and pundits are enjoying this revolting spectacle way too much. Allahpundit: “Killing babies on the table is one thing, but an old blackface photo is where America draws the line.” Charlie Kirk:

David Bernstein: “The standards on past indiscretions confuse me. If we had had a picture of Ted Kennedy driving a car off a bridge and leaving his passenger to die while he planned a cover up, would he have had to resign?”  And when Planned Parenthood demanded that Northam resign, we got this…

d) Ann Althouse, as I assumed she would, is dubious about the fairness of condemning Northam for an unexplained use of blackface 35 years ago. “Here‘s the Wikipedia list of celebrities who’ve done blackface, ” she writes. ” Would those who want to exile Gov. Northam agree that all of these people should be shunned retrospectively (even the dead ones)? Fred Armisen, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Kimmel, Dean Martin, The Marx Brothers, The Lone Ranger, Carroll O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Three Stooges, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Gene Wilder.

Of course, as Ann must recognize, all of those individuals, unlike Northam, were or are performers whose use of dark make-up was related to a particular role, skit or musical number. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/2019: Dumb, Dumber, Fake, and Fakiest

At least this guy has hair

If I’m out of bed, it’s morning to me…

1. Update. Wow. My furious ex-Ethics Alarms commenter actually filed a motion to oppose my motion to extend the time to file a response brief to his rambling 70+ page, incoherent rant of an appellant brief, as he tries to get the dismissal of his defamation suit against me overturned. Such extensions are granted as a matter of course and courtesy, and real lawyers never oppose them, so a petty motion like that sends a strategically unwise signal to the court that this is not really a legal matter but an abuse of process to pursue a grudge. Of course, reading the brief itself makes that clear.

2. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Day: Rep. Jason Crow (D-Co), who tweeted about the President sending troops to the border,

This guy needs to be sent back to government kindergarten. Troops are almost always deployed for political reasons, both national and international. Does he remember when LBJ sent troops into Selma? How about Truman using troops to break the railroad worker’s strike? Commenter Tim Levier correctly notes, “What troop was ever deployed for a non-political agenda? They go where the politicians send them. And what better place than in their home country defending their actual borders for national defense?”

The  new class of Democratic representatives is one for the ages. What an idiot. Continue reading

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