Distracted Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2020: “A Website, Two Governors And An Actress Walk Into A Bar…”

distracted

I’m writing this while simultaneously watching an Ethics Rock Extreme Zoom replay and answering typed-in questions from participants. Boy, I hate watching and listening to myself….

1. Unethical website? www.everylegalvote.com is labeled by the New York Times as “promoting claims of fraud, built on fantasy.” I’d call the big map showing Biden with 214 Electoral votes and the President with 232 misleading. I also find the Times’ constant refrain in headlines and stories that the President is “trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud” an outright lie.” The 2020 election was not “fair” because of biased and manipulated reporting by the Times and most of the media, and there is no question that many of the allegations of fraud are accurate, with legitimate reasons to suspect broader corruption.

The site is also serving valid purpose since the news media isn’t reporting the current controversies objectively.

2. And this is why most celebrities and actors should shut up, because they make people stupid. Here is actress Kristen Stewart’s response to a interviewers question on how she feels about gay activists demanding that only gay actors should be allowed to play gay characters (Stewart decided she was gay mid-career. Whether she stays gay —think Ann Heche—is an open question. It’s all about branding…) :

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that….Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said. I acknowledge the world that we live in. And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that. So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.

Thanks for that clarification, Kristen..

Continue reading

In Honor Of Our New Dog Spuds, A Timely Ethics Alarms Encore: “Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org”

That’s not Spuds above; that’s Brad Pitt’s wonderful Staffordshire Terrier in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,”, one of many breeds dog ignoramuses lump into the category of “pit bull.” Spuds, whom we brought home today, is almost certainly at least part American Pit Bull Terrier, like the dog in the “Our Gang” comedies, but we’ll know better when he gains back more of the weigh he lost when his owner stopped feeding him. Here he is in our kitchen tonight..

Since he is among the  types of dog who will be subjected to the breed bigotry that has led to the deaths of so many smart, loyal, affectionate and harmless dogs across America and Europe, I’ve decided to re-post this essay from 2015. It is the all-time champion Ethics Alarms post for comments, with 339 and counting. It is also the post that has continued to attract comments the longest after a post went up: the last flurry of reactions from anti-pit bull hysterics was in February of this year.

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Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org

This despicable website, created by phobics, liars, fools and bigots to promote dog breed prejudice and persecution of responsible dog owners, is discredited by the vast, vast  majority of dog experts, breeders, and people with any knowledge of dogs. It is useful in a way, in that its rhetoric mirrors that of the anti-Jewish, final solution advocates of the Nazi regime, and the most virulent American racists, like the KKK. (A dog breed is exactly like a human race.) It also apes the logical fallacies of those who want to ban guns or engage in racial profiling.

Although a mass of data and history proves that pit bull-related breeds are no more inherently dangerous than any powerful breed and arguably less, Dogsbite.Org is leading a vendetta against both the breeds and lawful, loving owners, reasoning that dogfighting uses pit bull-type breeds, and pit bulls used for fighting are more likely to be dangerous (as any dog so abused  may be), so to kill two birds with one stone, it makes sense to wipe out not just any individual dangerous dog of the type but any dog that is a hybrid of the a “pit bull breed” and any dog that looks like what people think is a “pit bull”, in part because there is no such breed as “pit bull.” Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Etsy

I haven’t had an unethical website to feature for a while, once I decided that sites like the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN shouldn’t be considered. Today’s choice, however, really deserves the honor, because this is really, really stupid.

Etsy is a website that sells products from other producers, often small, home-based operations. During the Wuhan virus outbreak, Etsy merchants have been doing a booming business  marketing masks made out of mesh, lace, and other materials that have visible holes in them. These masks are advertised as fashionable, comfy, and “breathable,” none of which are features related to the purpose masks are supposed to serve. Continue reading

As An Ethics Alarms Public Service, Here’s Another Reminder Of What A Phony, Dishonest, Brain-Dead “Factcheck” Site Snopes Is

Judge websites, social media platforms and your friends who rely on this flagrantly unethical site  as authority accordingly.

For some reason there has been an outbreak of tips to Ethics Alarms involving the usual Snopes stunts, including its factchecking  the conservative satire site, the Babylon Bee. Reader Pennagain reminded me of this classic though, which nicely sums up Snopes in a concise, stinky package.

The Snopes question it supposedly examined (but didn’t) in a 2018 “FactCheck” has resurfaced because there is a new podcast about the Banks tragedy. (I can tell when Banks’ story is attracting attention again when the EA post about Wanetta Gibson starts picking up traffic.)

Here’s the rest of that “factcheck”:

Snopes pulls this bait and switch trick a lot. The answer to linkbait question ‘Was Banks wrongly convicted of rape?” is  “Yes”, and any assertion to that effect isn’t “mostly true,” it’s absolutely, 100% true. Beneath the question that heads the “inquiry,” Snopes significantly rephrases the “claim” which it then “debunks” by giving us the breathless revelations that Gibson didn’t recant ON Facebook, she contacted Banks through Facebook and then confessed in person, and that Banks “only” served 5 years and two months, not “six.” Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Alarms, 4/19/2020: Facebook, Harvard, Broadway And You Know, Morons…

Good afternoon!

1. It’s come to this…Commenter Matthew B sent me the link to an article on Facebook, and when I clicked on, it this came up…

Yes, Facebook warned me that Ethics Alarms was a “malicious site.” I especially like the part where Facebook says to contact them if I think they were in error, but also say that they won’t do anything if it is.

2. Meanwhile, regarding my  alma mater whose diploma I already have turned to the wall, here is an illustration in the latest Harvard alumni magazine for an article about how bad home schooling is:

Yes, “Arithmetic” is spelled wrong.

I bet Harvard Magazine tries to claim that this was intentional by the artist, to highlight the inadequacy of a home schooling education. That will be, of course, a lie, but there won’t be any way to prove it. You know, when you are America’s oldest and most prestigious university, you really can’t afford to be that careless, especially to your alums, and particularly when your administration has embarrassed itself repeatedly on the last decade. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: reddit (ProRevenge)

I often have thought that I ought to research reddit more thoroughly for ethics stories. Then I stumble onto something like this, have to take a shower, and decide that I’ll be happier if  don’t. There is also the persistent reddit problem that one can never be sure when what you are reading isn’t completely made up by some aspiring James Frey wannabe. I have been burned in the past.

One of the reddit sub-site communities is devoted to revenge, and participants send in their alleged experiences. Revenge, as we all know, (I hope), is unethical. It’s also frequently entertaining and fun. Revenge has been a staple of drama since the ancient Greeks, and it’s vibrant still, perhaps because there is nothing unethical about revenge fantasies.

One particularly exhilarating (and disgusting) example is the original “I Spit On Your Grave” (yes, there are sequels), an extremely violent and graphic cult film in which a young writer is gang-raped and left for dead by five locals in “Deliverance” territory. She returns, trained, dead-eyed, determined and remarkably creative in a Marquis de Sade way, to pick them off, one by one.

Women seem to especially enjoy the film. I would not be surprised to learn that Hillary is a fan.

But I digress. The following story recently turned up on the reddit ProRevenge section. The disturbing thing was how few of the many commenters were critical of the writer’s alleged conduct, which is, as you will see, appalling.  Here is his account, redacted a bit for length, with periodic comments from your host. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/2020: Let’s Talk About Something Other Than The Whateveryoucallit Virus [Updated!]

Good Morning!

1. Hmmmm. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Recognize those words? Might the news media have the sense and integrity to include them in stories about state governments “ordering” that there be no public gatherings of 500 or more (New York) and 250 or more (Washington state)?

Update: Massachusetts just “banned” gatherings of over 250. I’d like to see the research showing that numbers not ending in zero are unsafe.

As far as I can figure out, a state governor can’t unilaterally restrict the right to assemble even in a “state of emergency,” and whether such a draconian measure is permissible is subject to court challenge and judicial scrutiny. These two orders seem especially vulnerable. Why 500? Why 250?

I’d feel a lot better if organizations and the public would assert their rights and demand that governors, as Tom Cruise was required by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” to ask nicely. This reminds me of Boston, of all places, meekly submitting in 2013 to a completely illegal demand by police that its citizens stay inside while the search for the Boston Marathon bombings was underway. Fear is a dangerous tool in the hands of the powerful, who have a nasty habit of becoming totalitarians if they sense any lack of resolve among their potential lackeys and victims.

2. Every now and then Jake Tapper’s once significant commitment to honest journalism creeps out of its post-CNN recruitment paralysis. Tapper recently opined on the air that Democratic voters were acting  like progressive  pundits:

“To be completely frank, I’m getting real 2004 vibes tonight…Democrats want to defeat an incumbent Republican so badly…that they decide which one is electable…and they decide, okay, it’s John Kerry, or in this case it’s Joe Biden… the point is that when you have the Democratic electorate deciding that they are all a bunch of Rachel Maddows and Chris Hayess and the like, that they’re just, you know, progressive pundits and they’re going to pick out who is the best one, maybe they don’t necessarily always know what they’re doing.”

“Hey! Where’s Tapper’s Kool-Aid? Get him a straw, quick!” I assume that within days, a former female guest will reveal that in 2014 Tapper complimented how she looked in her dress and asked, “Are you working out?,” leading to his immediate dismissal.

A fair point made by CNN critics: “I wonder why he didn’t say “Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo?” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/20: Dresden, Bloomberg, Snopes, Climate Change, And “The Chalkening”

Good Morning…

1. Dresden bombing ethics. February 13-15, 1945 witnessed the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, with the resulting deaths of between 22,000 and 135,000 civilians. depending on whose propaganda you choose to believe. Regardless of the number, the destruction of the German cultural center and questionable military target so late in the war—after its loss in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s defeat was just a matter of time—was instantly controversial, and is still intensely debated today.

The attack, which dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city, destroyed more than 1,600 acres. By all accounts, the human toll was horrific. Lothar Metzger, a survivor, wrote,

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

Was the firebombing of Dresden a war crime?  If the Allies had lost the war, it would have become a war crime. As we have discussed here before, the concept of war crimes is confounding and hypocritical at best. If the attacks were deemed essential to ending the war as soon as possible, then they were ethically defensible.

Much of the debate over the years has focused on whether the bombing was terrorism. Of course it was, as were the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Terror is a legitimate weapon in warfare, when the objective is to destroy the enemy’s will to fight. Attacks on civilians for revenge and to inflict gratuitous death and pain for no legitimate strategic purpose are unethical . The distinction is usually in the eye of the beholder.

Wikipedia has an unusually thorough article on the Dresden attack, and I found this paper interesting as well. Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Stupid: “Upbeat,” Unethical Website Of The Month,

Stay away from upbeat, Bart!

Let this incompetent, sloppy, website stand for all of its ilk across the web.

This is a pop culture site initially aroused my ire by tricking me into a slideshow. These are unethical devices used to artificially inflate traffic statistics; it would be like Ethics Alarms breaking every post into ten or more chapters that every view had to click on individually. The clickbait headline was “Hollywood Actors That Don’t Get Cast Anymore,” and the intro suggested that they all had been “blacklisted” for one reason or another. This itself is misleading and sloppy: when “blacklist” is used in reference to Hollywood, it means THE blacklist, the secret list of artists who the studios conspired not to hire because of the reality or rumors of Communist associations, sympathies and activities. To confound things, the slide show mixes in, as padding, I suspect, some figures who were blacklisted for alleged Communist connections.

There is no formal “blacklist” today, though some actors with conservative leanings claim, with some plausibility, that they have struggled after being placed on the bottom of the metaphorical pile because of Hollywood’s ideological intolerance. Communists, ironically, would be welcome in today’s leftist Tinseltown. Among those actors who picked the wrong era to be conservatives are James Woods, Patricia Heaton and the late R. Lee Ermey. Even they, however, couldn’t credibly claim to be blacklisted.

“Upbeat” doesn’t bother with these interesting cases, however. It would rather just make stuff up. Of Brendan Frazier, it says, “Fraser claimed that he had been sexually assaulted by [Phillip Burke] ..the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association… and whether the allegations were true or not, Fraser has not appeared in a film since. He now spends his time in his mansion outside of NYC, raising his kids and horses.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

WAKE UP!

Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.” Continue reading