My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part II: The Case For Expunging Wilson [Corrected]

Woodrow Wilson’s name should have never been put on

Yet President Wilson ended up being honored by having his name plastered on buildings, schools and bridges (like here in Washington, D.C) more than most Presidents, in part because influential Democratic historians, notably Kennedy family flack Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pushed the false narrative that he was a great idealist and a great leader. This required burying Wilson’s well-documented record as a racist, though the rest of his record wasn’t great either.

In Part I, I gave the official Ethics Alarms argument for not tearing down honors to Wilson now that Black Lives Matters and its allies are in full Soviet/Maoist cultural bulldozing mode. When Wilson is gone, I see little stopping the mob from tearing down Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials next, to name just one example of where this slippery slope leads.

Despite leading our nation through an existential depression and World War II, FDR had his own black marks regarding racism and discrimination, arguably as many as Wilson. In  1916, a document was discovered  showing that  Roosevelt, as Wilson’s Deputy Secretary of the Navy, personally signed an order segregating bathrooms in the Navy Department. As President, FDR wouldn’t allow his black and white White House servants to eat together.  Everyone knows (or should) that he imprisoned about 70,000 American citizens because they were Japanese, and just last year, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” revealed  archival evidence of FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust.  Franklin Roosevelt was a racist and an anti-Semite. When we get into retroactively dishonoring Presidents virtually all of them are at risk.

However, there are persuasive arguments that Wilson is a special case. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Today’s George Floyd Freakout Disgrace: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 The triggering event:

The museum’s powerful chairman of European paintings, Keith Christiansen, who has worked at the Met for 53 years, posted this image on Instagram. It depicts .

Christiansen also wrote,

“Alexandre Lenoir battling the revolutionary zealots bent on destroying the royal tombs in Saint Denis. How many great works of art have been lost to the desire to rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve. And how grateful we are to people like Lenoir, who realized that their value — both artistic and historical — extended beyond a defining moment of social and political upheaval and change.”

The statement was entirely appropriate and true.

But as we know, Facts Don’t Matter.

The response:

The post was quickly attacked  in a tweet by the advocacy group of arts workers, Art + Museum Transparency: “Dear @metmuseum, one of your most powerful curators suggested that it’s a shame we’re trying to ‘rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve’ by removing monuments — and, worse, making a dog whistle of an equation of #BLM activists with ‘revolutionary zealots.’ This is not OK.”

Responses to the tweet were similarly critical.

The reality:

  • Removing monuments is cultural suicide, and paves the road to historical ignorance.
  • BLM activists are “revolutionary zealots,” and denying it, or trying to punish those with the honesty and integrity to say so, won’t alter that fact.

Here is how Hawk Newsome, the president of Greater New York Black Lives Matter, described the movement in an interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News, as reported by the NY Post:

“If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right? And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation… Let’s be very real…. What is this country rewarding? What behavior is it listening to? Obviously not marching. But when people get aggressive and they escalate their protests, cops get fired, Republican politicians talking about police reform… Wow, it’s interesting that you would [ask what Black Lives Matter hoped to achieve through violence] because this country is built upon violence. What was the American Revolution? What’s our diplomacy across the globe? We go in and we blow up countries and we replace their leaders with leaders who we like. So for any American to accuse us of being violent is extremely hypocritical….. I think you should be applauding me, seeing how you guys are huge supporters of the Second Amendment….. But it seems to be the hypocrisy of America that when black people start talking about arming themselves and defending themselves, [that] talk is ‘violent.’ But when white people grab assault rifles and go to our nation’s, their state capitals, it’s all good… I just want black liberation, and black sovereignty. By any means necessary.”

Funny, that sure sounds like revolutionary zealotry to me. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”

Having just banned a commenter for a useless and obnoxious comment on this same post, it it is a wonderful tonic to be able to post  JutGory’s masterful Comment of the Day critiquing the Minnesota Twin’s statement explaining their removal of Cal Griffith’s statue. It is a fine fisking of the kind of disingenuous babble we  have been getting from organizations of late.

The poll on Cal’s statue so far:

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”:

Jack: “Taking all of that together, I believe that the Twins are justified in taking down Griffith’s statue, and that it would have been unethical for the team not to.”

Apart from the whole statue-removing thing, here is my problem with this:

Their statement said:

“When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction wit h our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’”

Fair enough. Good start. Then:

As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball.

PERMANENT. That is a strong word. But, that is what they intended. Permanent Tribute.

– including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961.

Including the man who moved them to Minnesota. Seems fitting. But for him, they wouldn’t have moved to Minnesota. And, why did he move the franchise? Because of the same racist attitudes that they condemn.

“We cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978.”

I see. So, the permanent tribute was made while ignoring the racist comments you knew about. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Lenin, Oliver, And The Troublesome Name

It would be well to consider the fate of that ultimate Sixties folk-pop group the Mamas and Papas, as we watch today’s idealistic anarchists make fools of themselves. By mid-way through their four-year run (during which they sold 40 million recordings), the group was self-destructing with inter-and extra-group sexual affairs and stage appearances where one or more of the group was too drunk or stoned to perform. The group kept breaking up and re-assembling, and fell apart for good in 1969. Mama Cass died of heart failure at the age of 34, after battling heroin addiction and other substance abuse. John Phillips, the creative leader of the group, also was a heroin addict and had emotional and substance abuse problems that he managed to pass on to his daughter, actress Mackenzie Phillips. In her memoir, “High on Arrival,” she wrote that she had a long-term sexual relationship with her father. Papa John also died of heart failure, when he was 66. Tenor Denny Doherty’s solo career flopped after the group ended. He was an alcoholic, but stayed sober for the final decades of his life. An acting career also failed; he finally got a gig as the “Harbormaster,” hosting a kids TV show that was a flagrant rip-off of “Thomas the Tank Engine,” but starring a talking tugboat. Doherty was 67 when he died from an aneurysm.

Michelle Phillips is the lone survivor of the group. She avoided substance abuse problems and after divorcing Phillips, whom she wed at 18, went on to a moderately successful acting career.

As today, these people who aspired to inspire lacked the wisdom, common sense, self-discipline, character, values or perspective to be trusted with their chosen mission.

1. Speaking of...When asked how it was that a statue of Vladimir Lenin was still standing in Seattle when protesters had toppled those of Ulysses S. Grant and others, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer said, among her reasons, that “Lenin was not a slave-owner, you Confederate apologist fucks.”

To which National Review writer David Harsanyi responded with the obligatory, “Lenin created tens of millions of slaves.”

In related news, a 2015 video  of an interview with Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors shows her saying, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories…”

Several of the tenets seen on the BLM website are redolent of Karl. Do all these companies and pandering celebrities giving lip service to the group, attaching #BlackLivesMatter to their tweets and proclaiming support, know what they are supporting? I think it’s pretty obvious that they don’t. They are signaling their virtue by ostentatiously endorsing the most simple-minded and deceptive interpretation of the slogan, as if there is anyone who believes black lives don’t matter. I bet the vast majority have never visited the BLM website and read its agitprop.

That, needless to say, is as dumb as it is irresponsible. Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two

Where Cal Griffith’s statue once stood…

Here is what Calvin Griffith said in the 1978 remarks that led the Minnesota Twins to remove his statue in from of the team’s stadium, Target Field.

Griffith was invited to speak to the Lions Club in Waseca, a small city in southern Minnesota. Taking questions from the audience after his planned speech, someone asked Griffith  why he brought the Twins to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., in 1961. Griffith lowered his voice, asked if there were any blacks around, and  looked around the room. Apparently confirming that his audience was all white,  Griffith said,

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

It’s hard to get more racist than that, at least short of a Klan rally. I’ll poll this at the end of the post, but I believe that this is a case where the Ethics Incompleteness Principle applies, and the usually valid ethical objections to pulling down the statues of problematic, controversial or subsequently disgraced historical figures have to yield to other considerations, which are these: Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part One.

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, a core concept on Ethics Alarms, holds that even the most convincing ethics rules, moral codes, laws and principles have exceptions. The inspiration for this observation was the work of Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose two Incompleteness Theorems, which relate to mathematical proofs, are his most famous contribution to civilization and science. A linguist as well as a scientist,  Gödel unintentionally delivered an essential blow against the ethics absolutism of Kant and rigid morality when he proved that human language is not sufficiently precise to define rules that will work as designed in every instance. The logical extension of Gödel’s theorems, which he applied only to mathematics and, by extension, physics, tells us that there will always be anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated it is. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. [ Here is an online discussion of the application of Gödel to ethics, which appeared years after the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem was posited on Ethics Alarms.]

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests that when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use  basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.”

Much as we would like it to be otherwise, for life would be so much simpler if it were so, no system or rule is going to work equally well with every possible scenario. This is why is why committing to a single ethical system is folly, and why it is important to keep basic ethical values in mind in case a pre-determined formula for determining what is right breaks down.

When a reader and frequent commenter sent me this announcement from the Minnesota Twins a few days ago, my reflex reaction was as you would expect: Continue reading

What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes” [Item #4]

The poll on #4 among yesterday’s “ethics grab bag” is running strongly in favor of leaving up statues of Juan de Oñate, a particularly nasty Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain. [Aside: I was going to link to the article on the Britannica site, but as soon as I whitelisted it, I was bombarded with pop-up ads, drop-in ads, slide-over ads and more that shifted the text and  made it nearly impossible to read. They are morons, and screw them, to be blunt. I’ll allow a site’s ads if the site is smart and considerate enough to format them so that they don’t make using the site  infuriating. I will not be visiting again.]  Only 11% of voters so far think that there needs to be some limit on how horrible a historical figure can be to have a community decide that they don’t want to be reminded of him and her every day. Voting is still open:

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day on Item 4 in the post, “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes”:

In general, I am not one calling for removing art from the public square. That smacks too much of Soviet Russia, Chairman Mao, and the Taliban. Perhaps a more complete history can be shown on the monument discussing the controversies.

The Oñate statue is one of those monuments that maybe should not have been dedicated, even if he founded or claimed the region for the Spanish crown over 400 years ago. Apparently, the statue’s foot amputation was in response to Juan de Oñate’s brutal repression of the Acoma Puebla after the Acoma rebelled in October, 1598, because the Acoma refused to pay a food tax to the Spanish crown, which had been implemented by Oñate. Oñate had claimed the region for Spain in March 1598, and instituted a food tax, which hacked the Acoma off – why wouldn’t it? – so they rebelled. The Acoma killing 11 Spaniards/Mexicans, including Oñate’s nephew, In response, Oñate ordered the burning of the town and the slaughter of almost the entirety of the 2,000 Acoma, leaving some 200 alive, including children. Oñate had his troops amputate a foot of each of the surviving males of fighting age and sent the children to “missions” in Mexico. The revolt has been referred to as the Acoma Massacre. Not sure that is something Spain is proud of. Continue reading

Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

1. Oh, I’m sure that will help a lot. Quaker announced yesterday that the Aunt Jemima brand would be rebranded and renamed “to make progress toward racial equality.” Yeah, I’m sure the pancake box design and hearing that demon name “Jemima” has retarded the progress of racial justice for decades.  I couldn’t care less what pancake mix is called and I doubt that anyone else does, but  if any portion of the market claims to find the logo offensive, that’s a good reason to ditch it, which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon. Nonetheless, Quaker’s move isn’t substantive. It’s virtue signaling, and at this point, more historical airbrushing. Getting rid of Aunt Jemima will cost Quaker millions of dollars, and probably raise the price of the product. It won’t affect racial equality one iota.

Meanwhile, cultural context and history is lost. The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890, and she continued in that role  until her death in 1923. Green appeared as Jemima beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” while operating a pancake-cooking display at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the Expo, Green was given a lifetime contract to  promote the pancake mix. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green’s one link to immortality.

2. Today’s SCOTUS decision on DACA. Here’s how NPR put it: “A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court extended a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.”

The President called this a political decision in his inimitable, meat-axe way:

This is an especially stupid tweet. Every time SCOTUS doesn’t back the administration isn’t a political decision, and lumping apples and kumquats together, which is what generalizing about decisions as diverse as the gay discrimination decision and this one is, just shows that the President doesn’t read the opinions he’s complaining about, and only cares about the results. (Of course, in this he is like most Americans, sad to say.)

After wading through as much of the assorted opinions in the case as I can stand (Great thanks, once again, to valkygrrl for sending me the link), I think that’s unfair.

Chief Justice Roberts, again the swing man, joined with the four liberal Justices and authored the majority opinion. This sentence says it all: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” That means that the decision isn’t about substance or policy, but rather process. Process decisions are not, or shouldn’t be, political. This note also undermines the idea that the Justices were just acting in partisan lockstep:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV. GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part IV. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part anddissenting in part, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part.

If the President paid attention, he would see that a majority of the Court found that his actions regarding DACA were not motivated by “animus,” thus denying Big Lie #4.

I am unalterably opposed to DACA, for reasons stated frequently here. The short version: it is incompetent and irresponsible law-making to provide an incentive for people to break the law. DACA is fueled by emotion and sentimentality (“Think if the children!”) and is an incremental step toward open borders. However, other than some dicta among the concurrences and dissents, there is no reason to see the decision as either favoring or disfavoring the law. Continue reading