Sackler, Tufts, Cancel Culture And The 100th Rationalization: The Reverse Ruddigore

I have been waiting to find the ideal 100th Rationalization, officially #70 (there are 30 sub-rationalizations on the EA Rationalizations list. It’s “The Reverse Ruddigore,” the equally valid opposite of Rationalization #21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”:

 You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

“Ruddigore,” for those of you sadly unaware of the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan, is the unjustly under-rated work by the Victorian geniuses that involved an ancient curse on a family that required a Baronet of Ruddigore to perform a crime a day or die in agony, courtesy of his re-animated ancestors, who otherwise hang around, literally, as portraits in a haunted gallery. One member of the family who has inherited the curse, Sir Despard, believes that he has found a loophole:

“I get my crime over the first thing in the morning, and then, ha! ha! for the rest of the day I do good – I do good – I do good! Two days since, I stole a child and built an orphan asylum. Yesterday I robbed a bank and endowed a bishopric. To-day I carry off Rose Maybud and atone with a cathedral! This is what it is to be the sport and toy of a Picture Gallery!”

Looking back on past posts, I laid the groundwork for #70 when I condemned the decision of Walt Disney World to remove Bill Cosby’s bust from the its Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame of Fame:

[L]ast I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos, have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

Subsequent bad acts no more cancel out past good ones than Sir Despard’s cathedral would make up for kidnapping sweet Rose Maybud. The current “Cancel Culture,” however, holds otherwise. In the latest episode, Tufts University announced today that it will strip the Sackler name from the buildings and programs on its medical campus, after a report censured the school for its relationship with the family whose drug company made OxyContin, the opioid blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths nationwide. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/19: September 11, 2001, And Other Cataclysms

The flag is still there…

Good morning.

1. A question that shouldn’t even have to be asked.  The New York Times asks if the “right thing to do” is for films and TV shows to edit out the Twin Towers in pre-2001 productions so as not to “trigger” sensitive audience members. Productions debuting in 2002, soon after the 9/11 attacks, are a special case: several films re-shot scenes to avoid references to the disaster, and that was just common sense. The suggestion that historical airbrushing is appropriate for works release before 2001 is disturbing, however, and symptomatic of the current belief that historical records cand and should be manipulated and censored for “the greater good.” Taking out the Twin Towers is a close unethical cousin of removing Robert E. Lee statues and references to slavery.

Director Michael Bay, who had a shot of one of the towers burning (from a meteor strike) in “Armageddon,” made an appropriate “slippery-slope” argument to  the Times, saying,

“Movies are shot, edited and finished for the world to see. They don’t get re-edited because history changes. If we go there, that means every movie must change. Every book, every short story, every painting of New York in the past 30 years. It would never end.”

I would add that it will be difficult to remember the September 11. 2001 attacks if we try to eliminate visual records of the Twin Towers.

2. Meanwhile, here’s how the New York Times wants us to remember the attackers: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins

“This is not history; it is a remnant from a bygone era.”

—–San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins, expounding to the New York Times and expressing her displeasure with the school board’s vote to nullified an earlier vote to spend over $600,000 to paint over Depression-era school murals depicting slavery and the deaths of Native Americans.

I love this unethical quote; it might be my favorite of all the unethical quotes Ethics Alarms has ever featured. It tells us so much in so few words.

Ethics Alarms wrote about the school board’s earlier vote that this one, for now, at least, undid, last June, noting,

The San Francisco school board unanimously voted this week  to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money to eliminate the  “Life of Washington,” a 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural that has been on view in the  city’s George Washington High School since 1936. It was considered politically incorrect at the time, but in a way that explicated American history rather than whitewashing it.  Among the mural’s many scenes is one depicting slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and Virginia colonists walking past a dead Native American.  The Horror. Although these scenes are historically accurate as well as provocative, “The truth will make you free” has been substantially abandoned by the Left in the U.S. Taking their cues from the dead and rotten Soviet Union and “1984”,  the new slogan is George Orwell’s “Who controls the past controls the future.”

Ms. Collins’ classic quote perfectly expresses how her city, her party and her ideological clones reached the state of delusion and the worship of manipulated reality (remember, the Democratic Party’s leading contender for the White House “gaffed” by admitting last week that “we choose about truth, not facts”) that have so many of our political leaders flirting openly with totalitarianism.

The idea is to prevent young citizens (and older ones too) from acquiring the kind of messy information that requires critical thought to sort out, the information known as “history”and “life.”Without forceful filtering, people of sound and open minds are liable to reach conclusions that don’t advance those of the ascendant (they think) re-engineers of American values and culture. Those poisoned by the past and traditional American values  might be willing to treat  with fairness and respect, rather than contempt and abuse, those who hold non-conforming, non-woke positions and policies. They might tolerate the rebels and iconoclasts who refuse to follow in lock-step their betters of superior virtue and wisdom . Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

The end of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Happy weird mid-week day before a holiday when almost nobody seems to be working…and remember Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

But ethics never takes a break…

1. Oops! Did we miss the real holiday? On this date in 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail that the day before, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted to declare American independence from the British Empire. Adams predicted that July 2 would eventually be celebrated by every generation of Americans with parades, speeches, songs and fireworks, which Adams called  “illuminations.” Why did he turn out to be wrong? Oh, because history is messy, mistakes don’t get corrected, and tradition becomes more important than facts. (Once again, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” rule applies: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend!” )

What happened on July 4th? The unsigned but ratified Declaration was sent to the printer on that date, and the printer dutifully marked his prints with “July 4, 1776”. The delegates didn’t start signing the document until August 2, and all the signatures weren’t down on parchment until November. The dramatic depiction of the signing taking place on July 4 in the musical and movie  “1776” is fake history.  It’s not all Broadway’s and Hollywood’s fault: the iconic painting “Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull, a version of which hangs in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington and which the actors are staged to re-enact in “1776” is often captioned “July 4, 1776.”

Trumbull’s artwork actually shows the moment on June 28 when the Declaration drafting committee officially presented its work to  the chairman of Continental Congress. John Hancock, There never was a signing ceremony.

Nonetheless, July 4 has, for some reason, been an unusually felicitous and significant day in U.S. history. It would be difficult to pick another that carried so much history, even without being the chosen date to honor the nation’s founding. Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously dying on that date within hours of each other in 1826, fifty years after….the Declaration was sent to the printer.

But July 4, 1803, was the day word arrived from Paris that the Louisiana Purchase was complete, having been signed by Napoleon.  Without it, the United States would have been a very different country, and a much weaker and poorer one.

July 4, 1863 also was the date Robert E. Lee acknowledged his defeat at Gettysburg after his desperate, risky, massed attack on the Union line across a fence-strewn field and up a grade into artillery fire failed. That defeat probably sealed the fate of the Confederacy, and meant that this unique nation would, despite a bloody close call,  have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Continue reading

When Bad Ideas Grab The Culture By The Throat: San Francisco Gives A Demonstration

In my one lucky private audience with genius and futurist Herman Kahn, he mused about how societies periodically forget important lessons of conduct that had been that absorbed by the culture over decades or even centuries. The result, he said, can be disastrous, even fatal to a civilization.

At the time he was talking about the Sixties-sparked cultural amnesia about the reasons sexual promiscuity and having children out of marriage were societal poison–forgetting THAT has worked out well, don’t you think?  Yet I have thought about Kahn’s observation a lot lately, as for the second time in my life the nation I live in appears to be suffering from a cultural nervous breakdown.

As toxic as it is, the embrace of historical airbrushing is far from the most dangerous of the  examples of this phenomenon that threaten the U.S. today, but it is one of the flagrant. Not for the first time, San Francisco is giving us a vivid demonstration of what happens when, as Herman put it, “whole cultures go stupid.” If the right lesson are learned  before it is too late, maybe the ultimate effects will be positive.

I am not optimistic.  After all, San Francisco’s peculiar version of social justice has led to a city culture that regards human feces on sidewalks and public places as acceptable. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Pick-Me–Up, 6/15/2019: The “Oh, Fine, It’s Afternoon Already And I’m Barely Awake” Edition

Bvuh.

Travel hangover today: I’ll do the best I can…

1. Thank you, loyal commenters, for a yeoman job in yesterday’s Open Forum.

2. Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck update. Now the historical airbrushers (all from Progressiveland, just in case you couldn’t guess) are going after Civil War recreations and commemorative events. The head of the Lake County Forest Preserve in Illinois declared that there would be no more annual Civil War Days event after next  month’s edition, if he gets his way. He doesn’t think Confederate flags should ever be displayed, even in battle recreations. Besides, he wants the event to be retooled so that instead of commemorating the single most important period and struggle in U.S. history, it advances an understanding of climate change.

(Who are these people? How did they get this way? What do we do about them so the cultural damage they inflict is contained?)

The home-grown historical censor also said,

“This has nothing we want, nor should celebrate, nor re-enact. When southern states are being made to tear down every statute representing this racist, murdering chapter of our history, I can’t believe here in Lake County our own forest preserve is preserving and celebrating it every year, and with our tax dollars.”

This deliberately brain-dead approach to U.S. history is working (aided greatly by the atrocious neglect of American history in our schools), and by working I mean promoting ignorance so citizens can be more easily misled. The Wall Street Journal reported that visits to Civil War national battlefields are falling off. Over 10 million Americans visited  Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga, and Vicksburg  in 1970. They only had 3.1 million visitors last year.

That’s about as many tourists as visited the “Cheers” bar in Boston.

3. Oberlin race-baiting update: in case you missed it, the jury in the Gibson’s Bakery case  hit the college with the maximum punitive damages, capped by law at 22 million dollars.  Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin”

The Myles Standish Monument

Regular readers  know that there are many superb comments here that I don’t re-publish as Comments of the Day.  One category of comment that is often neglected is the jeremiad, and dire predictions of the dystopian, Orwellian future that the current all-out assault on American values, traditions and institutions will eventually produce. 

I don’t like fearmongering as a tactic; if I ever did, the disgusting resort to it by Democrats as a way to sabotage President Trump would have been sufficient to reverse my approval forever. Nor am I a pessimist regarding this remarkable nation and the strength of its unique culture and the citizens who maintain it. 

That does not mean, however, that I think we should ignore the dangers to democracy that are now building in intensity. In this Memorial Day themed Comment of the Day, Steve-O-in NJ raises legitimate concerns. Remember that MSNBC host Chris Hayes once said that he was uncomfortable calling fallen soldiers heroes.

This is the predominant ethos of today’s American Left, an anti-patriotic, anti-exceptionalism, anti-American, anti-nationalist mindset that really has absorbed John Lennon’s infantile vision of utopia—no borders, no nations, nothing to live or die for—as a driving philosophy.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the post,Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up,5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin:

This holiday itself might come under attack.

The origins of Memorial Day aren’t as clear as you might think. The idea of decorating the graves of the fallen with flowers dates back to before the founding of this country, but here it was largely confined to families or, occasionally communities until the time of the Civil War. In 1861 Southern women organized to clean up and decorate the graves of the South’s fallen in Warrenton, VA and Savannah, GA, which leads to the concept that the holiday has Confederate roots. On May 1, 1865, the freedmen of Charleston, SC, led a parade of 10,000 to honor 257 Union soldiers who they had rescued from a mass grave and reburied. The earliest record of Decoration Day in the North was in 1868, proclaimed by General John Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans’ organization). Only in 1967 does Federal statute make it the holiday we know today.

The holiday is not a Confederate invention, nor was that first observance, in Charleston, even about the dead of the South.

Continue reading