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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/21/17: Fake Bravery, Mysterious Hate Speech, Vindictive Ex-Presidents, And The Trans Fold-Out

I confess: I miss New England…

Good Morning.

Thank God it’s Saturday.

1 The definition of “courage” being used to describe some of the late-to-the-party revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s victims is more than a bit off.  For example, Academy Award  winner Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed, in which she talked about her own harassment by Weinstein, was hailed by Kerry Washington, Ellen DeGeneris and others, including singer Janelle Monae, who wrote, “My hero. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for using your voice.”

Bravery? Nyong’o’s piece could be fairly described as kicking a dead horse when he’s down. There is no danger to Nyong’o now in joining the throng accusing and exposing Weinstein, whose head is on a metaphorical pike in Hollywood. Indeed, claiming victimhood now acquires sympathy and declares that one is joining one’s peers in a virtuous quest. There is nothing wrong with her op-ed or the fact that she wrote it, but it isn’t brave. It would have been brave if she had written it while Weinstein had power…and was still using that power to intimidate and exploit actresses

2.  A recent quiz in the New York Times threw some light, or maybe ice water, on the concept of “hate speech.” The quiz asked Times readers to judge whether a statement was hate speech, and contrasted the results with Facebook’s hate speech policy, and the kind of statement would be removed from the social media platform as violating its standards. Facebook defines hate speech as:

  1. An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
  2. Targeting a “protected category” of people, including one based on sex, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.

Here were the samples; Times readers were asked to vote yes or no to the question, “Would this statement meet Facebook’s criteria for hate speech?”

A. “Why do Indians always smell like curry?! They stink!”

B. “Poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus.”

C. “White men are assholes.”

D. “Keep ‘trans’ men out of girls bathrooms!”

E. “Female sports reporters need to be hit in the head with hockey pucks.”

F. I’ll never trust a Muslim immigrant… they’re all thieves and robbers.”

The Answers:

A. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 75% yes, 25% no.

B. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 92% yes, 8% no.

C. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 48% yes, 52% no.

D. Facebook: It depends on the context. Times readers: 57% yes, 43% no.

E. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 80% yes, 20% no.

F. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 91% yes, 9% no.

Ethics Alarms: the concept of hate speech is a dangerous, intentionally vague, manufactured category of speech pointing to restrictions of free expression. There is hateful speech, insulting speech, bigoted speech, biased speech, cruel speech, uncivil speech and rude speech, but all of it is still protected speech.

The tell is C. Times readers only voted that one statement wasn’t hate speech, the one that denigrated all white men. Of course they did. By Facebook standards, that vote is hate speech. I think.

Facebook can ban whatever speech it chooses, of course. The fact that it engages in this kind of vague, inconsistent, bias-laden censorship, however, tells us how much we should trust it: Not at all.

3. Speaking of bias, the Trump-haters in the news media—which is to say, the news media—were thrilled that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered, on the same day, statements that were taken as rebukes to President Trump without mentioning him by name. Both Presidents were treading in serious hypocrisy mine fields, and neither were called on it sufficiently. Bush spoke of “fading confidence” in free markets: Gee, who was President when insufficiently regulated capitalists crashed the world economy? Obama, even more cynically, pointed to social, racial and economic schisms after his eight years of aggravating and exploiting them. Both Bush and Obama—and for them, this is a despicable ethics foul—conflated illegal immigration with immigration, to the seal-flipper applause of the open-border crowd.

The significance of these dual attacks is less than it appears. Bothex-POTUSes are motivated by personal animus and as well as personal bias. President Trump is doing an excellent job, as promised, of erasing Obama’s few substantive achievements and policy initiatives from the record, and he has only been at it for less than a year. Are you a a successful President if the primary lasting effect of your administration is reversal of progress in racial reconciliation? Obama’s enmity is predictable, but hardly based on objective consideration. Bush’s attack is even less so.  Candidate Trump’s attacks on President Bush’s brother were nasty and personal; the entire family has made no secret of the fact that it won’t forget, and hates the President’s guts/

The real ethics lesson, as well as a practical policy lesson is that being gratuitously mean to people isn’t just unethical, it is incompetent for a leader. This is one more area where the President shows a self-destructive lack of control and prudence as well as a flat learning curve. At a recent event, Paul Ryan, another target of Trump’s personal insults, mocked the President. John McCain has clearly decided that he will do whatever he can to undermine him until his last breath. Not only do the various public figures Trump needlessly insults and attacks occasionally have the opportunity to strike back in substantive ways, they also have supporters who will side with them even when those strikes are unfair or petty.

Deliberately making enemies is an example of life incompetence. It is so for a librarian or a short-order cook; it is even more so for a leader. It just makes it harder for you to do your job.

Why would you do that?

4. And now that Hugh Heffner is dead, Playboy is trying to make him roll over in his grave by announcing that it will have its first transgender Playmate.

Is this Ick, or ethics? Presumably, if the magazine has any integrity at all, Playboy chooses its Playmates according to their aesthetic qualities, not their medical history. These are women. Stipulated: French model Ines Rau is a woman, now.  Why is her selection focusing on how she got to be one?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Rau wasn’t chosen because she is a beautiful woman, though I am not saying that she isn’t. She was chosen because she is transgender, and beautiful enough. This was affirmative action. Reports say she is honored. Why isn’t she insulted? If President Obama told Sonia Sotomayor that she was being nominated as a Supreme Court Justice not because she is especially qualified, but because she is Hispanic, would Sotomayor have been pleased?

Rau is being exploited, as Playboy treats the transgender social issue as a fad, to sell magazines and get publicity. Predictably, many of Playboy’s readers are objecting for the wrong reasons: they are bigots. Playboy’s social media response is telling: “Standing on the right side of history.” This is, as Ethics Alarms has pointed out before, a facile dodge and a rationalization. “We’re on the right side of history” is weak variation of the Number 1 rationalization on the list, “Everybody does it.” It means “Everybody’s going to do it, just you wait and see.”

Color me dubious. Heterosexual men who buy girlie magazines are going to find transgender women more beautiful and sexually arousing because they once were biologically male?

Sure, Playboy. Whatever you say.

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Comment Of The Day: “The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…”

I was hoping one of the Ethics Alarms military vets would on the issues raised by the recent West Point scandal, and frequent commenter Steve, among others obliged.

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

These issues are the result of the PC culture that civilian leadership has foisted on all things military. Results are demanded, not those of honor and integrity but of achievement of feminist and progressive goals.

I am retiring from the Marine Corps, things have changed and in terms of accomplishing the mission only a few changes have been good. The core of our military is the infantry, the best of the best of our officers strove to become infantry officers, the most demanding and dynamic job a young officer can have. To be successful you have to be in the top 10 percent of physical performance, be mature, have heart and character. The service academies strove to develop those types of leaders, the type that could be successful infantry officers. With that as the bar, our academies, all of them, have provided the nation with some of the best leaders has given the nation a steel core that helps strengthen the whole country and provides us with resolve and honor that has helped to drive the nation during times of strife.

Civilian control of our military is essential but is also the cause of the rot. Many of the issues such as DADT and the official acceptance of gays in the service doesn’t matter much, the fight and dissent on this issue was due to concerns of political correctness and social engineering effecting the performance of the military, creating a distraction from, in terms of gays in the military it has never hurt us and we have all know some, as a leader I don’t give a shit who you sleep with so long as conformity and uniformity is achieved where it matters most, that the chemistry of the unit is stable. That is that issue in a nut shell.

Now the issue that is very much hurting our academies and the military is the unattainable push for equality, again the core of our military is the infantry, the pinnacle of being a good soldier is to be an infantryman, it is where the bar is set the highest, success requires achieving and maintaining peak mental and physical condition. The infantry is the essence of the military and women can only be artificially successful as an infantryman.

Over the last couple of decades the push has been focused of the individual achievement of women, for achievements sake, not as a multiplier of available manpower or enhancement of performance but to be able to lay claim to being just as effective soldiers as men, it is a desire to be able to make a claim, not to realize it. Standards remain different, there is an acceptance that requirements must be flexible to the individual so as not to become the focus of ire from civilian leadership. It all flows from the top, civilian authorities select generals not solely based on merit or performance but more and more on politics, those who are willing to tow the political correctness line are promoted, those who focus on effectiveness and strive to be apolitical are shown the door or are passed over. Continue reading

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The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

West Point graduate and infantry officer Spenser Rapone recently caused a sensation through his advocacy and support of communism, while being an “official socialist organizer” of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Rapone recently posted a photo of himself as part of a declaration of support for professional football player Colin Kaepernick, including the phrase “Communism will win” with the tag “Veterans for Kaepernick.”  Rapone later posted a second photo of himself in uniform with a Che Guevara T-shirt underneath his jacket.That led to scrutiny of the hundreds of pro-Communist tweets by the former cadet, including one  calling Defense Secretary James Mattis “evil” and “vile” and another saying he will “happily dance” on the grave of Sen. John McCain.

This was not extensively covered by the mainstream media—After all, what’s the matter with Communists, as long as they don’t help Donald Trump?—though some attention was paid when Senator Rubio demanded that the Army remove Rapone. The Army said last week is it investigating and that the posts “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

I sure hope not!

Now the military community and others are asking how this is possible, and how West Point could produce a  graduate like Rapone.  In response to the episode, retired LTC Robert M. Heffington has written an open letter about what he sees as the deterioration of the culture at the storied military academy. Heffington was an assistant professor at West Point for several years, until this past August.

Note, please…

I. This is how one blows a whistle.

II.  Heffington describes how cultures rot: inattention,  poor leadership, refusal to apply standards, corruption from political agendas, silence from within.

III. Desperate and politically driven efforts to achieve diversity at the expense of integrity and quality are a major factor.

IV. West Point is a part of the higher education community. It would be surprising if it were immune from the same deterioration that the rest of America’s colleges and universities are suffering from. Thus this passage…

“…an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum (at West Point!). In all courses, the bar has been lowered to the point where it is irrelevant. If a cadet fails a course, the instructor is blamed, so instructors are incentivized to pass everyone. Additionally, instead of responding to cadet failure with an insistence that cadets rise to the challenge and meet the standard, the bar for passing the course itself is simply lowered. This pattern is widespread and pervades every academic department.”

V. Before I read the letter, I guessed that it would have a passage like this one, and sure enough:

“The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.”

VI. Repairing a broken culture is a long and difficult process. It involves…

Exposure

Acknowledgement

Intervention

Investigation

Transparency

Resolve

Punishment

Dedication to standards and values

Measurable goals

New leadership

Oversight

Refusal to compromise

Routine Assessment of progress

 Robert M. Heffington is an Ethics Hero. Here is his remarkable and remarkably disturbing letter: Continue reading

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UPDATE: So THAT’S What Really Is Going On. Boy, Wouldn’t It Be Great If There Was Some Trustworthy Professional Source That Would Report Events Without Spin And Intentional Distortions?

 

Somehow, I expect the New York Times to be better than this.

Today’s Morning Warm-Up included this item as its final note:

Ethics Alarms will certainly feature more on this development, but for now I’ll just welcome the decision, sure to be attacked as “white supremacy,”  by the Justice Department’s civil rights division to begin  investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants. Affirmative action has always been a euphemism for “race-based discrimination in favor of the right race,” and while it can be argued that it was a necessary evil in the wake of Jim Crow, it is still a hypocritical and unconstitutional policy.  I hope the Justice Department includes discrimination against Asian-American students in its crackdown as well.

Well what do you know?

DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores  put out a statement today clarifying what the New York Times went out of its way to distort, saying,

“Press reports regarding the personnel posting in the Civil Rights Division have been inaccurate. The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved. The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

This was the 2015 complaint by Asian-Americans claiming they were victimized by quotas at Ivy League schools that was discussed in the Ethics Alarms post I linked to this morning. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/2/17

Gooooood morning!

(I don’t know about you, but it’s always a good morning for me when the Boston Red Sox win the most exciting game of the baseball season so far with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth after what should have been the last out reached first because  a swinging strike three went through the catcher for a passed ball….)

1. Yesterday, the gang at HLN were laughing and guffawing over the fact that someone sent e-mails purporting to be from Anthony Scaramucci to various White House officials and fooled the recipients into responding. Such publicity is what hoaxers dream about. This is why we have despicable fake news sites like “The News Nerd” and others. This is why Facebook feels it needs a special task force to search out and destroy false representations. CNN and other news media also treated the e-mails as significant news—more newsworthy, for example, than the Pakistani crooks the Democratic party had handling sensitive e-mails and other data. Why is this news, other than the fact that the “bad guys” were fooled, in the warped perspective of “resistance” journalists? More to the point, why is it funny? Why is the news media encouraging hoaxes by rewarding them with the notoriety they crave, so they can puff up their little pigeon chests and say, “See? I matter!”

The reports attempted to bootstrap the story by explaining that fake e-mails are how cyber-predators can get access to e-mail accounts. Those phishing episodes, however, involve the credulous recipients clicking on links in the message, which did not occur here. That’s what Hillary Clinton and John Podesta did. I don’t recall HLN chortling about that, however.

2. I’m still waiting for the news media’s apology to Sarah Palin. The news from UK socialized medicine today:

“Obese people will be routinely refused operations across the NHS, health service bosses have warned, after one authority said it would limit procedures on an unprecedented scale.Hospital leaders in North Yorkshire said that patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above – as well as smokers – will be barred from most surgery for up to a year amid increasingly desperate measures to plug a funding black hole. The restrictions will apply to standard hip and knee operations. The decision, described by the Royal College of Surgeons as the “most severe the modern NHS has ever seen”, led to warnings that other trusts will soon be forced to follow suit and rationing will become the norm if the current funding crisis continues.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: July Fourth, 2017

Good Morning, everybody, and Happy Independence Day.

1. A minor item cross-filed under “Twitter makes you stupid and careless,” “Oh, sure, our public schools are terrific!” and “Is we getting dumber?”: Yesterday, whoever the History Channel allows to handle its Twitter account tweeted out the fact that July 3 was the anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and included a picture of General…George Washington.

2. Is trolling ever ethical? When it’s pointed, clever and deserved, perhaps. Boston-based businessman and inventor V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai,  a Republican who received a Ph.D. and his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is running for the GOP nomination to oppose Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. He’s running on the slogan: “Only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian.” V.A. sent Warren a DNA test so she could prove that she’s part Cherokee, as she asserted in the past to get the benefit of affirmative action recruiting programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania. The Senator refused to take the test, prompting her tormentor to tweet,

“I’m deeply saddened @SenWarren refused my thoughtful (gift-wrapped) Birthday Gift: the 23&me DNA Test Kit,” Ayyadurai tweeted Sunday. “Most unfortunate! #FakeIndian.”

He then posted screenshots of the DNA test kit he purchased online.

Why doesn’t Warren just take the test? If it shows she has Native American DNA, then she’s killed an issue that has haunted her since 2012, and will continue to unless something changes. If it shows that she isn’t an “Indian,” then all she has to do is say that she was mistaken, she had bad information from her family, and regrets taking advantage of the affirmative action programs to the detriment of real minority academics. (Harvard listed her as a teacher “of color.”)

The answer is that Warren would rather claim that the Indian issue is a manufactured slur by the right, so she can continue to claim minority status and victim status. The answer is that she’s a cynical, cowardly fraud.

Warren, Hillary, Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters constitute the mots visible leadership of the Democratic Party.

Res Ipsa Loquitur. Continue reading

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Case Study: How Institutions Like Wellesley Get That Way

In the previous post about Wellesley programming its students to oppose free speech, we learned to our horror (I presume you were horrified) what the liberal college culture is doing to the minds and values of your young.

Now comes this: an anonymous account on the website Quillette on how “standards” are created and maintained at some universities. All? We better hope not.

I was appointed by the dean of General Studies to serve as the chair for a writing hiring committee, a committee charged with hiring one full-time writing professor, who not only could teach first-year writing classes but also offerings in journalism. The committee of three met late in the fall semester to discuss the first group of candidates, before undertaking the second set of Skype interviews. I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that “we do not teach grammar” in our writing classes. Sure, I thought. And a surgeon doesn’t take vital signs or draw blood. That doesn’t mean that the surgeon wouldn’t be able to do so when required.

In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate, a candidate whom I respected. In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.

Continue reading

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