Ethics Quiz: Harvard’s Anti-Meme Vendetta

…or not

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten anointed members of the Class of 2021 after it discovered that the prospective students traded sexually explicit memes and messages in a private Facebook group chat. Some of the memes apparently mocked and denigrated minority groups.

The admitted students had formed the messaging group, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,”on Facebook in late December, 2016.

The members of the group sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, among other topis.  Screenshots captured and obtained by the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, revealed that  some messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines targeting ethnic or racial groups, like one that called hanging a Mexican child “piñata time.”

Harvard administrators were alerted  to the existence and contents of the chat and sent the students an e-mail that read,

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee. It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation.”

A week later, at least ten members of the meme chat group were sent letters from Harvard announcing that their admission offers were no longer valid, and that the decision was final.

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day

Was Harvard’s action fair, reasonable and proportionate?

Continue reading

Autonomy: The Ethics Alarm That Obamacare Should Be Setting Off, But Isn’t

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Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified  every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.

That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past,  deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading

Embracing Orwell

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Nancy Pelosi epitomizes the ethics illness that has been gradually infecting our public discourse for decades now. She suffers from, and indeed wants to spread, the George Orwell Disease, epitomized in his classic “1984,” which causes political leaders to seek to control the public and hold power by controlling what the population is capable of thinking and saying. Such cynical and sinister use of language to hide the truth and then keep it hidden by insisting on vernacular that throws the brain off the track was once primarily the realm of the military, but in recent decades the American liberal establishment has found the approach—“War is Peace,” as George would have put it—extremely useful, indeed, indispensable. Pelosi’s tactics—it isn’t just her, of course, but the Democrats are accountable for their leadership—include many of those that Big Brother was adept at in Orwell’s book—repetition, for example.

Yesterday, Pelosi explained how the Affordable Care Act was a “winner” for Democrats going into the 2014 elections—or, as Big Brother would say, “Losers are Winners”—and instructed the public and the media that the law isn’t “Obamacare.”  “It’s called the Affordable Care Act. It’s called the Affordable Care Act, ” she insisted. “Affordable. Affordable. There’s a reason. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable. Affordable.” Continue reading

Crossing The Line Between Fun And Corruption: The Elf On The Shelf

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“LOOK BEHIND YOU!!! LOOK BEHIND YOU!!!”

Ever since I first encountered an “Elf on the Shelf” at a friend’s home, I have wrestled with the alleged tendency I have to perceive serious unethical consequences in trivial matters. I have wrestled long enough: the “Elf on the Shelf” is an unethical addition to a child’s home, and parents should think long and hard before subjecting their children to its sinister influence.

If you have been lucky enough to avoid this relatively new addition to American holiday traditions, here is what is going on, right from the Elf on the Shelf website, where you can buy these small KGB agents in pajamas:

“The Elf on the Shelf® is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning. There are two simple rules that every child knows when it comes to having an elf. First, an elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if an elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole. Second, an elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! An elf’s job is to watch and listen. Elves typically appear in their families’ homes at the beginning of the holiday season (around Thanksgiving in the U.S.). On Christmas Eve, the elves return to the North Pole with Santa Claus–until next year!” Continue reading

Making Sure Obamacare Wrecks The Holidays, Too

What if you choked on that turkey and went into a coma...did you consider that?  How would you pay for the the hospitalization? That's why you need insurance...

“What if you choked on that turkey and went into a coma…did you consider that? How would you pay for the hospitalization? That’s why you need insurance…”

Ah, the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas! Time to gather together in safe, friendly, warm and loving homes, united with loved ones, family and friends, to eat good food together, laugh and sing together, exchange gifts, good wishes and hope, perchance to worship and pray, but most important of all, to hector the stuffing out of everyone on behalf of the Democrats and Obamacare, because there really is no private, family time, time to give thanks and reflect of better things for our fellow human beings—just one great opportunity to carry the message of Big Brother to the eager, desperate and gullible, because, after all, the holidays are really about Barack Obama and his struggling health care law. Right?

Yecchhh.

Also..how dare they? Programming an army of Obamaphiles to turn the holidays into an extended infomercial for Obamacare crosses multiple lines, several of which place the stepper into disturbingly familiar totalitarian, collectivist territory, where every citizen is deemed a deputized agent of The One True Authority Over Us All. On BarackObama.com, the faithful Obamabots are given all they need to ruin the holidays, including a helpful “packing list” (to make sure your family has everything they need to enroll in Obamacare),  various ways to plot to ambush your loved ones to turn the conversation away from peace, good will and sugar plums to saving the President’s bacon, and talking points, so you can be just as charming and honest as Jay Carney, David Plouffe and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Continue reading

Unethical (and Disgraceful) Website of the Month: Attackwatch.com

We've just got to find the White House staff some better role models....

In scary-looking black and red, attackwatch.com is the latest embarrassment from the amateurs  and goof-offs who are inexplicably still employed in Barack Obama’s White House. It is the creation of the campaign arm, announced in a sinister e-mail by the President’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, who wrote:

“Forming the first line of defense against a barrage of misinformation won’t be easy. Our success will depend on a team of researchers and writers to stay on the lookout for false claims about the President and his record, bring you the facts, and hold our opposition accountable.”

The website includes an online snitch form that allows good citizens to report anything that might be regarded as an “attack,” and to finger the pundits, bloggers, journalists or other sources responsible.

Many commentators on the right have called the site Stalinist and compared it to classic totalitarian practices in other nations, in which the good and loyal citizenry have been encouraged to identify enemies of the state who may be “disloyal.” Certainly a program that encourages Americans to report “misinformation” —defined, the site makes clear, as any assertion less than fawning over the President—so they can be held “accountable” encourages such a comparison. “This is a frightening effort by the White House to suppress political speech,” one caller to a Washington D.C. talk show said yesterday.

It’s frightening, all right, though not for that reason. Yes, the site’s language is spectacularly tone-deaf to First Amendment concerns: “stop attacks on the President before they start” is the language of fear, repression and censorship, not patriotism and statesmanship. Nonetheless, I have no fears that a ham-handed, paranoid website and silly volunteer snitch program by an administration that is finally beginning to get at least some of the criticism from the news media that it deserved to get three years ago will intimidate anybody. What is frightening is the naked incompetence and juvenile instincts of the people the President allows to represent and advise him, who don’t understand the culture of the nation they are supposed to govern and how deeply offensive this kind of paranoid, Big Brother-style, enemies list behavior seems to most Americans when it comes from a President.  The fact that he allows this shows that the President doesn’t understand either. This is, after all, the man is supposed to work for and respect the opinions of supporter and critic alike.

Attackwatch.com is merely the latest in the depressing succession of botched U.S. Leadership 101 tests by Barack Obama and his team.  I was searching my knowledge of the Presidents to think of any one of them, before Obama, who would have allowed himself to be heard, recorded or videotaped telling a crowd “If you love me, you gotta help me pass this bill!” as Obama did this week.  [Note: A commenter below was offended that I did not exactly quote the President in my original version here, writing “If you love me, pass this bill!” The key phrase, of course, is the “if you love me,” and to clarify for him and any other “gotcha” fans out there, I cannot imagine a President before Mr. Obama who would say anything beginning with the phrase, “If you love me…!”  because it is unseemly, pandering, narcissistic, and embraces a cult of personality that is antithetical to the political culture of the United States.] I couldn’t think of one; in fact, I couldn’t think of one who wouldn’t have been horrified at the thought of appealing to blind adoration as the justification for a major policy initiative, rather than its value to the nation.  If Attackwatch.com is frightening, that was just sad.

Actually, they are both sad.

And frightening.

Comment of the day: “It Has Come To This”

JC comments in response to “It Has Come to This,” the recent  post about a school suspending a student for the non-bullying, non-threatening, non-defamatory content she wrote to friends on her personal Facebook page in the privacy of her own home. JC apologetically calls it a rant; I don’t think it is. He is providing useful context for the school’s abuse of its power, and illuminates how we got to this unfortunate place, where parents abdicate to the schools, and the schools open the door for government intrusion into our homes and families.

“…Do schools have a legitimate concern? After Columbine, Red Lake, etc. I can understand why schools would be concerned about online postings discussing murder. Often the shooting is mentioned before hand in an online post. How to prevent this school shootings? School officials think that paying attention to students online activities (whether at school or at home) is the answer. There is a world of difference between the student saying I wish teacher X was dead and saying I am going to bring three guns to school and here is the plan on how I am going to carry out my attack. School officials seem to view that difference as a fine line that they would rather be on the safe side of.

“Rant warning. Just so you know.” Continue reading

It Has Come to This

…Well, your kids, anyway. But you’re next.

Rundlett Middle School has suspended  a 13-year-old Concord, New Hampshire girl for posting on her Facebook page that she wished Osama bin Laden had killed her math teacher.  Many of the stories published about the incident close with the statement,  “School officials say they can’t comment on the case because of privacy concerns.” While I suppose I should be relieved that they are still concerned about some privacy issues,  their respect for privacy generally leaves a lot to be desired.  So does their respect for basic constitutional rights…but they aren’t the only ones.

The post was stupid, and so what? The teacher was not placed in any jeopardy (Osama is dead, no matter what the school might have heard); no student was bullied (not that this would justify the long arm of the government reaching into the child’s bedroom either); nobody was defamed.    Kimberly Dellisola, the girl’s mother, has told the press the punishment was “too harsh.” Would somebody please tell Kimberly that the school has no business punishing her child at all? That’s Kimberly’s job, or at least was, until schools decided to take over policing what children do, write and say in their own homes. Continue reading

Final Ethics Verdict on TSA’s Feel-Up Pat-down

I was flying this week, and the security procedures were smoother than ever. Now I am certain that my molestation at check points last year was unethical, and have sufficient evidence to conclude that it was based on government incompetence and willful disregard for my comfort, dignity, and rights.  I am also wondering, more than ever, if the ardent, supposedly liberal defenders of the indefensible feel-up pat-downs have learned anything about the dangers of blind government obeisance and partisan loyalty. I hope so.

The saga so far: Continue reading

Democracy Works: Pat-Down Update and the Duty to Bitch

I was traveling by air again yesterday. As usual, I went through airport security and, as usual, I set off the buzzer with my platinum hip, which try as I might, I just can’t get into one of those gray plastic trays. As usual, I was directed to the cattle pen waiting area until an agent could give me my enhanced pat-down, because also as usual, the quick, convenient, preferable and unjustly maligned full body scanners weren’t available.

I was asked if I was familiar with the new procedures, to which I answered, “You have no idea.” And the nice, friendly, professional agent game me the full-body massage, but with a difference: now, as he pointed out carefully, he was directed to use only the back of his hand when approaching my happy places, and he was extremely careful to avoid any touching that would make Sean Hannity complain on the radio.

All the bitching, you see, worked. Continue reading