Category Archives: U.S. Society

Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3 Of 3: Potpouri!

The Charlottesville  fiasco combined several ethics train wrecks, as I mentioned before, creating The Perfect Ethics Train Wreck. We have the airbushing away historical figures now out of favor ETW, the progressive anti-free speech ETW, the long-running 2017 Post Election ETW, which involves the news media’s determination to blow up any word or deed by the President, large, small, ambiguous or insignificant, into a justification to remove him. We have the burgeoning “pro-violence as long as it is against the far right caboose,” and the “Let’s figure out what the motives were behind specific statues, regardless of whether they were legitimate heroes or admired historical figures in the times in which the lived” cattle car. And, of course, the intensifying assault on free expression locomotive, bolstered by the guilt by association diesel engine.

What a mess. It is made worse by the fact that many of these rooted in fascinating and nuanced ethics problems, but being discussed on line and elsewhere by  single-minded, narrow-view, partisan, doctrinaire, hypocrites and  fools.

I’m going to root through some of the wreckage now…

  • Former African American NBA star and freelance social commentator Charles Barkley weighed in on the controversy by saying, “Who the hell cares about Confederate statues?” Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t: it’s like the Washington Redskins. The controversy is driven by small, intense minorities forcing people to take sides over issues that they never thought about before. Adds conservative blogger Allahpundit:

“Remember, 62 percent told Marist that statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should remain in place as historical symbols. That includes a plurality of blacks (44/40). If you nudge people to state an opinion on whether CSA monuments should stay or go, you’ll get a divide but one that leans strongly towards leaving them in place. If you include a “there are more important things to worry about” or “eh” option, the numbers that are effectively in favor of the status quo can only rise. Most people, I suspect, just don’t care much either way. In the end, to Barkley and to many, many others, we’re arguing about scenery.”

But apathy and ignorance don’t mean that important principles are not at stake, or that we are not facing a dangerous slippery slope. The blogger continues,

There’s peril in that, though, if you believe firmly in leaving the statues in place. The number of people who feel passionately about smashing monuments may be small but they’re motivated and have a defensible argument that these are tributes to white supremacy more than to the Confederacy or “gallantry” or whatever. If they succeed in pressuring local governments to remove them, the “eh” contingent (which includes Barkley) will flip the other way: “Now that they’re gone, there’s no sense obsessing over them anymore. What’s done is done.” The politics of “what done is done” are slippery here, easily mutating potentially from justifying the pro-statue position to the anti-statue one. Which, I guess, is why we’re destined for a big public argument over it despite wide apathy towards the subject across the population. Dedicated believers in leaving the statues alone know that if they don’t push back diligently, the tear-’em-down contingent will prevail through sheer agitative will.

Cultures can take tragic and destructive turns when a radical minority steers the ship after the majority shrugs and says, “Oh, let them have their way.” Freedom of thought, expression and communication often die by millimeters. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/21/17

GOOOOD morning!

Ready for an ethical week?

1.  I am beginning to wonder if aimless protesting and demonstrating has become a fad. Here is one piece of evidence: over the weekend, dozens of New York City police officers held a rally in support of getting quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job in the National Football League. Among the demonstrators was Frank Serpico, made famous by Al Pacino’s portrayal (Do not watch that movie now, as it has aged horribly), who must be bored or something.

What possible good can this rally do, other than to serve as some kind of perverse virtue-signaling by police (“I support the guy who said that when I’m falsely accused of murder, I should lose my salary before there’s an investigation or a fair determination of what really happened! Love me!”)? If the rally is supposed to tell NFL teams who they should hire to play based on talent alone, no team in its right mind will or should pay attention. “Hey, a bunch of cops in Brooklyn think that Colin’s better than we think he is. What the hell: lets give him a few million bucks!” If the rally is mostly about his National Anthem-dissing stunt,  all they are doing is guaranteeing that the borderline quarterback will stay unemployed. Kaepernick, by his own actions (and routinely inarticulate and simple-minded justification of them) irreversibly made linked his political stand to his football abilities. It’s like the dilemma Michael Sam created when he made a big deal about being openly gay. Was he being drafted because he was gay and the NFL didn’t want to appear bigoted, or because he was good enough to play? When he was cut, was it really because he was gay (Naturally Sam hinted it was) or because the team’s management thought it would have a better team on the field without him? The same was true of Tim Tebow: if a team cut him, it was suspected of hating God. Who needs a constant distraction like that?

If a protest can’t accomplish anything constructive, then it’s an unethical protest.

2. Popular culture in the Age of Trump is sending even more muddled and unethical messages that it used to. I’m trying to get though Marvel’s latest for Netflix, “The Defenders”, a series based on Marvel’s second-tier super-hero team that consisted of a rotating squad of hopeless mismatches, like Dr. Strange and the Submariner. It has been recast as a group of urban misfits (Bulletproof ghetto warrior Luke Cage, depressive and cynical strong girl Jessica Jones, blind super-nimble lawyer Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) and boring young tycoon Eastern master Iron Fist, whose real name I can’t remember. Yesterday i watched, Luke, easily the most likable of the four, berate Iron Fist because we was white, rich, “privileged,” and had the cruelty and audacity to regard a young black kid who was being paid to spray acid on multiple murder victims of a sinister criminal enterprise as a criminal himself. “He just needs a job,” explains the huge, indignant, racist, classist, bullet-proof black guy.

Oh, well, that’s all right then! (Pssst! Luke! Don’t hurt me, but it’s called “accessory after the fact.”) Continue reading

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Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2 Of 3: Amy Alkon Loses Her Mind

Part One is here.

Perhaps the scariest capitulation to the Confederate statue hysteria is Amy Alkon, the usually astute and level-headed blogger, advice columnist and political correctness foe (her book is called “Good Manners For People Who Sometimes Say Fuck“). I often quote her and cite her blog, which in some ways is similar to Ethics Alarms.  Tragically, this issue has both lobotomized and hypocritized her:

Not “Foolish” To Remove Confederate Statues From Public Squares — It’s What We Do To Be Decent Human Beings And Fellow Americans To Black Americans

That “so foolish” remark is how the President put it — and, as usual — as John McWhorter pointed out on CNN, it comes from an impulse appropriate to a 12-year-old boy.

There’s the argument some are dragging out that Jefferson owned slaves (so shouldn’t we yank his statues and pictures, too?). I’m disgusted by that; however, it’s a side note to what he was to this country — to all he gave to this country. So, no, I’m not for going around the country and doing searching background checks on all the subjects of monuments and pulling them down.

Having monuments to confederate leaders in public squares, however, is like naming a school “Hitler Junior High.”

It’s a horrible slap in the face to black citizens and it makes me sadder than any of the stuff that we’ve seen in the news lately.

Yes, disgustingly, people are actually fighting to have monuments up that glorify people who believed blacks to be inferior and fought to the death to protect that view and the shameful capture and enslavement of other human beings that went with it….

What? What hysterical, historically ignorant social justice warrior has a cocked gun at Amy’s head, making her type crap like this? Let’s see:

1. It is foolish…short sighted, destructive, presentist, hysterical, knee-jerk—to remove “Confederate statues” by which Suddenly Stupid Amy really means “Individuals who at some point in their career performed bravely or ingeniously in the Confederate army, or on the side the Confederacy.” Are monuments to President John Tyler, who served in the Confederate cabinet, Confederate monuments? Tyler is the one who decided that the Vice President should become President, not just acting-President, when a President dies in office. I’ve visited his home in Virginia; we honor him on President’s Day.

If Tyler hadn’t made his stand for the continuity of government, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the masterful liberal Democrat who moved heaven and earth to pass the Civil Rights Act, would almost surely never have been President at all. Every American should raise their eyes heavenward in thanks to Tyler’s statues and monuments, especially African Americans. Were his honors raised to emphasize Jim Crow? Hardly. Jefferson Davis was a distinguished statesman based on his public service before the civil war, just as Pete Rose was a record-setting baseball player before he got himself thrown out of baseball for gambling. Pete’s statue is justified for his on-field achievements, just as Davis’s honors can be justified by his that had nothing to do with the Confederacy.

2.The President’s words are typical of a twelve-year old. Those criticizing him for properly standing up for his nation’s historical record, complex human beings and major figures in our history who are not just good or bad but an amalgam of influences, upbringing, the times and regions in which they lived and the circumstances under which they made crucial choices, and for seeing immediately the perils of forced cultural amnesia may be more articulate—it isn’t hard—but have failed a test of citizenship that he has passed with flying colors.

3. The fact that Thomas Jefferson was not only a slaveholder but one who repeatedly raped a slave who did not have the power to say “no” while he was extolling her “inalienable rights” is no “side issue.” How breezily Alkon, a fierce feminist, abandons her values so she can oppose Donald Trump!

Yechh.

Alkon is taking the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in her teeth. “We must pull down the statues and memorials of supporters of slavery because they are insults to African Americans, but Jefferson isn’t really a supporter of slavery.” No, he was also a moral coward, a liar, a thief, and perhaps the biggest hypocrite in American history.  Forced to choose, I’ll take Robert E. Lee over Jefferson for character every time. However, Tom wrote our mission statement as a nation, defined our values in his words (though not his conduct), and managed to pull off the Louisiana Purchase.

Those achievements are worth every honor we have given him. The thesis behind the statue assault, however, is that only the bad stuff recognized in hindsight matters. Amy’s rebuttal to those who rightly recognize the unethical nature of that assertion consists of shouting “That’s ridiculous!” She doesn’t have a legitimate rebuttal. There isn’t one. Continue reading

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Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/18/17

Good Morning, Ethics Alarms Readers!!!!

1. I am so aggravated, offended and frankly frightened over how the Charlottesville politically-correct spin has been injected into the public’s brain by the familiar unholy alliance of the free speech-hostile left, the Soviet-emulating historical air-brushers, cowardly scholars and, of course, our impulsive and inarticulate President, that it is difficult for me to focus on anything else. As Billy Bigalow sings in “Carousel,” though, “I’ll try, by God, I’ll try…”

2.  Wolf Blitzer actually asked, on the air, whether the Barcelona terror attack was inspired by James Field’s homicide-by-auto in Charlottesville. I swear, this isn’t a Charlottesville commentary but a “How incredibly stupid does a journalist have to be before the public and his employers send him off to work at a bait shop?”  commentary. Is this some sinister effort to blame Robert E. Lee for terrorism in Barcelona? There have been  eight jihadi car-ramming terror attacks this year alone! Why in the world would a Spanish terrorist look to James Field’s for inspiration? Why would Wolf Blitzer even ask such a blitheringly idiotic question? How can we respect of trust major news media when it can behave like this?

As Ann Althouse wrote last week about a Washington Post story:

This is the kind of newspaper article I’m looking for, detailing what happened in Charlottesville, and I wish I felt more confidence that The Washington Post would tell it straight. Maybe this is straight, but how can I know? What trust has been shot to hell in the last few years of journalism! I’m still reading this, because it’s the closest I’ve come to the kind of careful report I want.

For me, once a major network anchor displays the utter stupidity (or contempt for the intelligence of its viewers) that Wolf’s speculation constitutes, I have enough information to never trust that news source….not that I didn’t already have sufficient justification for that conclusion.

3. I have come to the conclusion that all polls are inherently misleading, and those who cite poll results to justify or condemn policy decisions or initiatives are themselves untrustworthy. First of all, the polls reflect apples, oranges,  mangos and walnuts but treat them as if they are the same. When a majority of the public, for example, disapproves of Congress according to a poll, what does that mean? It means that some who disapprove do so because Congress is too conservative, while others regard it as not conservative enough. Since the two components of that disapproval diametrically oppose each other’s standards, the poll provides no genuine guidance or illumination. Such polls are also misleading because there is no way of knowing  how many of those polled are informed regarding the issues and legislative matters beyond reading headlines or watching Stephen Colbert. I don’t care what ignorant people think about things they haven’t bothered to think about, and neither should the news media or elected officials.  All polls should include the category, “I really haven’t studied this issue enough to have anything but a gut-level opinion.” “Don’t know/No opinion” is not the same thing. Continue reading

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From The “I Told You So Files”: First They Came For General Lee…[UPDATED]

UPDATE: Because the first two news sources I had were in error, I originally posted that the event described occurred this week. It did not: it occurred in October of last year.

Just a few hours ago, I was explaining to a usually wise and rational commenter why her willingness to allow periodic purges of statues and memorials honoring those individuals who past members of our society determined were worthy of continuing honor. The figure in question was Robert E. Lee, not one of my personal favorites, but a generally recognized military genius and easily a man whose life and accomplishments included several justifications for permanent memorials. My favorite: Lee personally vetoed the Confederacy’s fallback plan of taking the war to a guerilla stage, extending the conflict indefinitely. It might well have worked, but Lee refused. I’ll happily grant him some perpetual statuary for that. But the self-righteously intolerant practitioners of presentism want Lee cast as a an irredeemable villain, and his statues toppled.  There are many reasons why this kind of self-imposed cultural amnesia is offensive, harmful and stupid, but in my exchange with that usually wise and rational commenter, I focused on the slippery slope, writing,

You cannot articulate what the stop is on that slippery slope that doesn’t end with blowing up Mount Rushmore.

Imagine my surprise, not to be proven right, for that occurs often, but to be proven right so quickly by a news report I just read concerning a protest  by more than 200 political correctness  maniacs inside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Their goal: take down the statue of former of Theodore Roosevelt—historian, author, scholar, orator,  political philosopher, war hero, patriot, cowboy, explorer, public servant, the father of conservationism, the creator of the National Parks system, President and one of progressivism’s founding pioneers—and, of course, one of the Mount Rushmore Four. The protest’s organizers, NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place, called the statue of the former New York City police commissioner and former New York governor  a “stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,” adding in a statement that “The statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.” The protesters carried signs that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “DECOLONIZE THIS MUSEUM,” and “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY.”

Of course they did.

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Nicely-Dressed Factor

(NPR says this was an actual passenger.)

When I fly, I always wear a sports jacket. No tie, often a sports shirt. Usually dress shoes, though not since I got mt neato-keen Boston Red Sox canvas deck shoes. Why do I do this? Apparently because I’m old, but also because of that old, archaic value, respect. If I’m in public, and especially if I’m going to be in close quarters with someone, I want the experience for them to be as pleasant as possible.

The airlines exercise very little dominion over what its passengers wear. Bare feet will keep you grounded; a T-shirt  with profanity or a lewd message may get you barred from a flight, but not much else. However, the airlines do notice what you wear, and what you wear may have benefits:

George Hobica, founder of the travel fare advice site Airfare Watchdog, said that “everyone believes no one gets upgraded anymore based on how they look.” But, he added, “It does happen.”… [Hobica] then relayed tales of friends who had been upgraded while wearing clothes they considered nicer than what they might wear to the gym or the grocery store, and a conversation he once had with a gate agent friend at Lufthansa.

“She told me she would upgrade people based on how good-looking they are, how pregnant they are, or how nicely they’re dressed,” he said. “She said: ‘Look, we oversell flights and, of course, we go down the status list first. Absolutely, we look at your miles.’” But if no one on the flight warrants special privileges, the absence of ripped jeans or tattered sneakers can help, Mr. Hobica said.

The Times got uniform denials that attire was rewarded when it contacted various airlines, but a flight attendant vaguely confirmed Hobica’s account.

“I will say that when I see someone come on the plane and they’re dressed nicely and their children are dressed nicely, I do take notice,” said …a United flight attendant since 1978. “When someone is a little dressed up and looking like they made an effort, it’s almost like they’re showing respect for themselves and for everybody else on the plane…My personal opinion is that when you take pride in how you look, you take pride in how you act,” she said.

Hmmmm.

The Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the day is…

It is ethical for polite attire to confer benefits for flyers over passengers who dress in flip-flops, tank-tops and torn jeans?

Continue reading

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