Tag Archives: ad hominem attacks

Giant Chicken Ethics

An amazing number of readers sent me links to the story about the giant inflatable chicken with Trump hair stationed near the White House.

Is this an ethics matter? Well, let’s think about that.

As stupid protests go, this one is more entertaining than most. The chicken is intrinsically amusing.

Yet it is still just an ad hominem insult. Any group putting up an inflatable animal sporting Obama ears in a similar position would be immediately condemned as racist. Like the naked Trump statues that were put up over night in some cities, the chicken is nothing but another “I hate the President” primal scream. It’s not productive. It’s not constructive. It’s not polite. It is a less offensive gesture than hanging or burning an effigy, but just barely. It’s better than “Fuck Trump” and “Not My President!”, but this is just the “it’s not the worst thing rationalization.”

Then there is the “Back to the Future” problem. You will recall, I hope,  that in the greatest film trilogy of all time, protagonist Marty McFly’s fatal flaw was that he could not stop himself from accepting a challenge, however foolish, once he was called “chicken.” Until Marty finally overcomes this flaw, he is is doomed.

Is this really a prudent time to call President Trump a chicken?

I think not.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/4/17

Good Morning!

1. An update to the Michelle Carter fiasco from Taunton, Mass., where the judge in the case discussed here sentenced the young woman to 15 months in jail for her supposedly deadly words, which “made” her boyfriend commit suicide. This classic example of the axiom “hard cases make bad law” provides the censorious camel’s nose access to the tent for advocates of  the criminalization of “hate speech,” opposition to climate change propaganda, and the gradual castration of freedom of speech. Carter should have never been charged or tried; doing so was an abuse of process, prosecutorial ethics and judicial ethics. I strongly suspect that the judge knows the case will be reversed on appeal as unconstitutional, hence his decision to stay the sentence, allowing Carter to remain free while her case winds its way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, her life will be stalled, and completely absorbed by the consequences of her texts urging teen Conrad Roy III to act on his expressed desire to kill himself, which he did. This is her real punishment, because the sentence will not and must not stand.

It is unethical to use the legal system this way. When the government takes it upon itself to punish citizens despite the absence of applicable laws, it is treading over the line dividing democracy from totalitarianism.

2. What is to be done about California? States have always maintained their own unique cultures, and that is a national strength. When a state’s culture becomes wholly estranged from and hostile to the values and principles of the nation it belongs to, however, it becomes a danger to that nation and perhaps to its citizens. What, if anything, is the responsibility of the federal government when this happens? What is the duty of the state’s elected officials?

Tucker Carlson’s creepy interview on Fox with a leader of the California secession movement,Shankar Singam, raised these questions and more. Among Singam’s jaw-dropping positions was that the documented exodus of middle class Californians and small businesses from the state was a good thing. “If everyone in the middle class is leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do,” Singam told Carlson. He also told Carlson that “This is California. We’re not the United States.”

At least that settles the question of whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

An ethical, responsible, loyal American governor would recognize the danger inherent in allowing his state to see itself as separate from the rest of the country, and actively work to reverse that dangerous trend and attitude. That governor is not Jerry Brown. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/31/17

Good Morning!

1. If you want an instant reading on someone’s ethics alarms, or a quick diagnosis of whether he or she is a jerk, ask their opinion on yesterday’s episode in which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in the face of a Cubs fan who was harassing him during the Brewers-Cubs game. Instead of ignoring the fan, who was shouting insults at him, Christie walked over to him and said, among other things, “You’re a big shot!”

“Appreciate that,” the fan gulped.

It’s rude, uncivil and cowardly to shout insults at anyone who just happens to be attending an event as a private citizen. It doesn’t matter who the target is. The fan, Brad Joseph, assumed that he was insulated  by the crowd and the setting from any consequences of being a jackass by setting out to make Christie’s visit to the ball park unpleasant. Bravo to Christie for behaving exactly as any other non-weenie would when subjected to such abuse. Brad was adopting the same false  entitlement the “Hamilton” cast assumed when it harassed Mike Pence, though in lower case. Elected officials have an obligation to listen to the public’s complaints and positions. They do not have an obligation to accept outright abuse, and shouldn’t.

Joseph, heretofore to be referred to as “The Jerk,” or TJ, told a radio station, “I called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.” Then walk up to the Governor like a man, look him in the eyes, and say it, you chicken. Shouting from a crowd is a hit-and-run tactic, and you know it. You depended on it.

 

“This is America and I think we have the right to say what you believe as long as it’s not crude or profane,” Joseph then said. Wrong, Hot Dog Breath. You do have a right to be crude and profane, but as with those abuses of free speech, harassing someone, anyone, at a ball game is still unfair and unethical.

2. Then there were the ad hominem attacks on the Governor in the comments to the story. Did you know Christie was fat? Did you know that being fat proves his unfitness for public service or removes his human right to be treated decently when he goes to a ball game? These were the conclusions of easily 75% of all commenters, proving informally that 75% of internet commenters have the ethical instincts of 10-year-olds.

The news media was hardly better: check which sources make a big deal about the fact that Christie was holding a plate of nachos when he stared down TJ. This non-essential detail was even in some headlines. Newsweek, which is really just a left-wing supermarket tabloid now, actually headlined the story “Chris Christie confronts fan who wouldn’t let him eat nachos in peace.”

That’s not just fat-shaming, that’s an endorsement of fat-shaming. The problem with Chris Christie isn’t that he’s fat; the problem with him is that he is corrupt and sold out his principles and his country to help make Donald Trump President, none of which justifies abusing him when he’s at a baseball game.

Or watching “Hamilton. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

Yeah? What’s so “good” about it? HUH? Well?

1. In an article/discussion about the impact of George Romero, the zombie genre creator who died last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, and I’m not making this up,

A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on [Romero’s “Night of the living Dead,”], I hinted that [the film’s African-American hero’s]death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.

Wait…What?

This insulting, counter-factual, absolutely crackers statement may be an opinion, but it is so stunningly biased and warped that it should have set off ethics alarms at the Times, if any exist. If the film critic could say this in print, he says it among his colleagues. If he has said it among his colleagues and no editor, pundit or colleague has grabbed him by the lapels and said, “What the hell are you talking about, man? You better keep that crap to yourself, because it embarrasses the paper. Better yet, I think you need a vacation!”, then this strongly suggests that almost everyone at the Times is marinating in a crippling fantasy culture that makes independent, objective, trustworthy reporting and punditry impossible.

A.O.’s statement self-destructs at “calm.” Obama “saved” nobody; in fact, he either deliberately or incompetently degraded the one area of our society he was elected to improve: racial harmony and respect. How does a black character’s death (the movie’s hero is shot by authorities who assume he is a zombie) “prophecy” the fate of Barack Obama, elected President twice, cheered upon his leaving office, and immediately rewarded with historical revisionism, obscene speaking fees and a book contract? [I hate to cavil, but it really needs to be pointed out that the Duane Jones character in “Night of the Living Dead,” far from saving the white characters, gets them eaten and zombified by adamantly rejecting one obnoxious white man’s insistence that they should all just lock themselves in the basement. After all those white people the Obama-like hero  “saved” according to A.O. are ambulatory brain-eaters, he survives the zombie onslaught—by locking himself in the basement! I suppose this “prophesied” leading from behind.]

The critic’s statement is thinly veiled anti-white racism, bubbling up from the concentrated anger and Trump hysteria at the Times. White supremacy. Sure, A.O. I won’t be reading any of your reviews anymore, nor your fellow critic Jason Zinoman, who either agrees with your fanciful and hateful assessment, or didn’t have the integrity to tell you that you are paranoid and nuts on the record. Either way, he is also a fool. I don’t care what either of you think about movies, since you view them through bullshit colored  glasses.

2. I have three times now prepared to write a post about what I now call Anti-Trump porn at the Times, highlighted every week by the Sunday Times “Review Section.” Last Sunday was another one. This section’s obsession is stunning: the section is loaded with unrestrained Trump hate, ad hominem insults and hysteria and  from every perspective. I would think other Times readers would be bored, not to mention alarmed, by this monotonous vive and broadcast of bias (An unbiased newspaper would not allow one topic and one point of view to monopolize its weekly commentary section), but apparently the Times readership is insatiable.

The res ipsa loquitur feature this time was an editorial cartoon by Art Spiegelman, who is a brilliant cartoonist when at his best. Like most cartoonists of a political bent, he is all ideology and advocacy, and pretty much devoid of respect for facts and balance. Here was his comment after November 8:

“I see something similar to Hitler in that it’s gone very fast to things that seem surreal to me, like Trump supporters shooting four civilians at a polling place in California – one of them died. And there’s the slide towards uncivility, from what I read on the internet. For the first time I got to see my name with three parentheses signs around it. I don’t think it was a secret that I’m Jewish, but they were making sure that the alt-right people would know that I was Jewish. That’s just something I saw a couple of days ago. ‘Oh, I see. OK, it’s a new day.’ And at this point we don’t care about refugees’ lives. They’re not white lives. So yeah, sure, I’m worried.”

Shut up and draw, Art. Trump supporters did not shoot four civilians at a polling place in California. Middle East refugees are white. And Art must not check the internet very often, if he judges any single  excess or outrage as proof of anything. His was a statement of pure intellectual laziness, bias, bigotry and hysteria—but never mind, political cartoonists don’t have to be fair, accurate or responsible. They just have to communicate what a biased paper’s editors know even its own biased pundits couldn’t get away with, and have the defense that “it was just supposed to be funny!”  Thus here was the Spiegelman cartoon featured on page two of the Times’ Review section last Sunday: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/13/17

Good Morning!

1. I owe Robin Meade an apology. The astoundingly bright-eyed, bushy-tailed HLN morning host has been used here as an an example of the sexism of broadcast news media producers, and it is true that she is uncommonly attractive even by “news babe” standards. However, I have come to realize that she is also a unique talent, and more than just a pretty face and figure. Meade has natural presence and charisma, projects genuine optimism and and an up-beat nature, and most unusual of all, doesn’t spin the news or tilt her delivery to signal her own opinion. She’s really good at what she does. I’m sorry Robin; I was biased against you because you are attractive, which is just as wrong as being biased for you. You’re a pro, through and through.

2. Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh (who is also my favorite candidate for a Supreme Court post if one opens up) published what I consider to be a definitive refutation of the claim that receiving opposition research, as in “damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” is a crime under current law. He also makes a case that it couldn’t be criminalized under future law:

“It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?”

The professor concludes not. I hadn’t even considered the First Amendment issue in determining that the election law prohibition against receiving “anything of value” benefiting a candidate from a foreign nation or individual was not intended to preclude mere information, but Volokh’s argument seems air tight. Continue reading

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Reconsidering “Lincoln,” Lincoln…And Trump

I’ve been reading a lot about Abraham Lincoln of late. A book by William Hanchett called “The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies” reminded me that while President Jackson is the closest historical match for the populist, outsider aspect of Donald Trump’s rise, the startlingly close match for the antipathy and hatred Trump has faced from the moment of his election eerily traces the experience of Abraham Lincoln.

Like Trump a minority President, Abe won only 39.8% of the popular vote but was still comfortably elected by the Electoral College. As with Trump, his opposition refused to give him a chance to govern or unify the nation, although in his case, the Democrats divided the country literally, seceding from the union before Lincoln took the oath of office. Today’s Democrats are without that option (thanks to Lincoln!), but are doing everything else in their power to undermine the elected leader. (And California, the most Democratic state, is saber-rattling about seceding.) Also like Trump, Lincoln did not concede that his lack of a popular vote majority in any way robbed him of a mandate to govern.

From the moment the election results were known, many Democrats proclaimed the election of Lincoln itself to be an act of aggression, a “declaration of war.” Many in Lincoln’s own party—even his own Attorney General—accused him, with some justification, of engaging unconstitutional measures. The Governor of New York evoked the Revolutionary War generation, saying that they would not stand for such incursions on their rights. Constitutional expert George Ticknor Curtis of Massachusetts predicted that the Lincoln Presidency would “be an end to this experiment in self-government.”

Meanwhile, pundits and critics heaped personal abuse on Lincoln, calling him grotesque, a barbarian, ” gorilla.” Diarist George Templeton Strong, whose words are so often quoted by Ken Burns in his documentary about the Civil War, called him a “yahoo.” It was said that fashionable New Yorkers would be ashamed to be seen in the presence of someone as boorish and uncultured as Lincoln;  it was rumored that he rejected handkerchiefs and “blew his nose through his thumb and forefingers, frontier-style.” As late as 1864, a New York editor wrote,

“[The President] is an uneducated boor. He  is brutal in all his habits and in all his ways. He is filthy. He is obscene. He is vicious.”

Somehow, despite this cruel barrage of ad hominem rhetoric, arguably more successful then that it would be now since the public has more knowledge of the President and can make their own observations, Lincoln persevered to meet the greatest challenges any President ever faced.

While still pondering some of the parallels with today’s relentless attacks on our current President, I watched again the 2012 Stephen Spielberg-directed film “Lincoln,” which was almost unanimously praised when it was released, and which I enjoyed a great deal when I first saw it. This time, however, “Lincoln” revealed itself as an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam

Current Lieutenant Governor Northam is the “establishment candidate” in the Democratic Party as it tries to hold on to the Governor’s mansion. He is being opposed in the primary by Tom Perriello, a populist, Bernie-backing candidate. Thus Northam is pandering to the leftist, “resistance,” “not my President” hard progressive base by indulging in ad hominem attacks while endorsing incivility and demonizing as the new standard Democratic modus operandi, which it is rapidly becoming.

“Donald Trump is a narcissistic maniac, and I will do all I can to keep his hate out of Virginia.”

I think we can all agree that Trump is a narcissist. So is Obama; so is Bill Clinton; so was  Lyndon Johnson, JFK and both Roosevelts. Many excellent leaders are narcissists. None are maniacs (synonyms: madman, lunatic, usually meaning “dangerous”), however, and neither is Donald Trump, except that anyone who doesn’t embrace political positions the left embraces is subject to being called and judged insane. This is why the Soviet Union locked up dissidents in mental hospitals, and increasingly U. S. progressives are looking to Stalin’s play-book: censorship, marginalization, slander.  Ironically, it is the anti-Trump obsessed who have shattered all rules and traditions of civilized political speech, advocacy and opposition in a democracy, and who are in the grip of mania.

Nothing the President has done or proposed justifies the maniac label, but current anti-Trump politics has nothing to do with justice, or fairness, or responsible rhetoric.  Northam says he wants to keep Trump’s “hate” out Virginia, whatever that’s supposed to mean, but he is branding his own hate, which I suppose is his party’s hate, by calling the President of the United States a foul name designed to wedge fear and alienation between the public and the man whom they chose to lead us.

Notham has disqualified himself for leadership by this alone.

If a maniac was running amuck, do you think Ralph Northam would favor beheading him? Do you really think people who denigrate our nation’s elected leader the way Virginia’s leading Democrat does were offended by Kathy Griffin’s art?

_________________________

Source: Slate

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