Ethics Quote Of The Month: Prof. Glenn Loury

“You can’t have an under-representation without having an over-representation. Are the people who come out on top guilty of “privilege”? Did they “steal” their success? Do they owe their success to the denial of opportunity to someone else? Even if so here or there, is it universally true in every case? Is that a dictum that we have to adhere to? I would submit that this is the wrong way to think about social outcomes. You can see that it’s the wrong way from the places this sort of thinking leads you. “

—Glenn Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University, an African-American, in the inaugural essay of the new Journal of Free Black Thought.

You won’t see Loury interviewed on CNN , MSNBC, NPR or the networks. He undermines the narrative—a lot of them, in fact. In his essay, his primary target is Black Lives Matter, as part of his warning against the ascendancy of “bad ideas.” He writes,

“Racial essentialism is one of these bad ideas…If we can’t find some way of countering the underlying problematic ideological commitment to race as an essentialist category, we’re in trouble. Martin Luther King had the right idea with colorblindness, yet today it’s regarded as a microaggression to say one doesn’t see color. Of course, it’s impossible literally not to see color, but despite pressure from cultural elites, we needn’t give it the overarching significance we now do. In fact, if we’re going to make our experiment in democracy work, we mustn’t give it such significance.”

He goes on,

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Post George Floyd Anniversary Observations: A False Narrative Kneels On America’s Neck

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I’m sure many readers here feel that I am obsessed with this issue and are tired of my attempts to cut through the fog machine’s belches, but this is an ethics blog—a tiny, increasingly ignored ethics blog that is opposing the full force of a lying news media, a cynical Democratic Party, Machiavellian activists and dead-eyed corporate executives who just want to avoid controversy, and everywhere else, “Good Germans,” cowards who know the George Floyd Freakout narrative is based on falsehoods, but who just want to get along by going along.

So if I have to be a bit repetitious, so be it. There have to be a few oases of truth on the web.

Here are some excerpts from this morning front page story in the Times, insufferably headlined “The First Time The World Stopped And Noticed.” (Noticed what? That a drugged-out career criminal died on the streets as a direct result of his own persistent irresponsible behavior? That Minneapolis had a sadistic, mean cop who should have been kicked out of policing long ago? That a single, perhaps avoidable tragedy occurred in a city as the end result of a confluence of unrelated circumstances, the type of event that happens, has happened and will happen thousands of times every day across the country?)

  • The crowds that gathered in Minneapolis and elsewhere reflected on what has changed, and what has not, in America since Mr. Floyd was murdered by a police officer.” The Times should know better, and I’m sure it does, but just doesn’t care. Until Derek Chauvin’s appeals are exhausted and he loses them—not at all a foregone conclusion—it is not factual to say he “murdered” George Floyd. On the facts, I still don’t see how it can be claimed that he murdered Floyd, since murder requires the element of intent. At most, the episode was negligent homicide, which is not “murder.” But referring to Floyd’s death as a murder became part of the false narrative from the second cell phone photos of the incident hit the internet, and it has hardened into “fact” in the minds of most Americans.
  • “Mr. Floyd’s daughter Gianna was invited to appear at an Atlanta rally titled, “My Daddy Changed the World.” Her Daddy changed nothing. He broke a law, resisted arrest, took drugs that might have killed him, and then had the manner of his death exploited, resulting in many deaths, billions in damage to communities, and mass disinformation.
  • “The battle for the soul of America,” [President Biden] continued, “has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.” This is shameless grandstanding for the rubes. All evidence indicates that Derek Chauvin was an equal opportunity bully. Nobody has been able to show he was a racist. Once again, this is the propaganda of presumed racism. If Chauvin were black and Floyd were white, and every other detail was identical to what happened in Minneapolis a year ago, nobody outside of Floyd’s family and friends would know his name. The incident had nothing to teach abut racism, except that it is a powerful and abused word currently being abused by demagogues and power-seekers.
  • “Speaking after the meeting, one of Mr. Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, pushed for more action on Capitol Hill. ‘If you can make federal laws to protect the bird which is the bald eagle, then you can make federal laws to protect people of color,’ he said.” Such an idiotic and offensive analogy is not worthy of publication, except to show how emotion rather than reason has dominated the entire fiasco. “People of color” are not an endangered species, and the greatest threat to their welfare is their own conduct, as in the case of George Floyd. Nobody is hunting them, but the paranoia that statement like this creates does lead to the dangerous tendency among blacks to resist lawful police authority.
  • “In New York, demonstrators said that the killing of Mr. Floyd had energized the Black Lives Matter movement that began after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but that the country still had a long way to go.” Now there’s a good analogy: Trayvon Martin’s death also had nothing to do with racism, his killer was portrayed as a racist murderer of an innocent, politicians deliberately misrepresented the facts, and politically motivated prosecutors brought excessive charges. In that case, justice prevailed, however.

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“Systemic,” A Four Part Ethics Alarms Depression, Part I: Systemic Propaganda And Facebook

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I know who Bret Weinstein is; maybe you don’t. He’s a biologist, evolutionary theorist, and, of late, a free speech activist. The fact that you may not remember him is my fault: he was the hero in the Evergreen State College (in Washington State) racist fiasco in 2017, where the school decided it should order all whites off campus for a day. He was the sole professor on campus with the guts and principles to refuse to leave, resulting in his vilification, harassment, and ultimately, his resignation. Why I didn’t highlight his courage in an “Ethics Hero” post, I don’t know: I didn’t even give his name a tag in the sole post where he was mentioned.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Weinstein found his Facebook account suspended because he wrote something that the Thought Police there felt was inappropriate—you know, like all of Ethics Alarms is inappropriate on Facebook for daring to explain that performers who have worn dark make-up are not all racists or advancing racism

“I have been evicted from Facebook,” he tweeted to his 400,000 followers. “No explanation. No appeal. I have downloaded “my information” and see nothing that explains it. We are governed now in private, by entities that make their own rules and are answerable to no process. Disaster is inevitable. We are living it.”

Later,Weinstein revealed, Facebook told him it had “already reviewed” the suspension and the decision “can’t be reversed.”

Ah, but among his 400,000 followers is John Lennon’s articulate, contrarian and often conservative-sounding younger son, Sean. He tweeted to his friend’s rescue, writing,

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/17/2017

1. If you haven’t yet read them, Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on Chris’s brilliant Comment of the Day regarding ideological and partisan hate—plus Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on the same post, are all especially worth reading, not that all Comments of the Day by Ethics Alarms readers are not. I apologize for an unusually long intro to Steve’s post, but I had been holding on to a lot of related material from the day past on the topic, and it was either use them there or be redundant later. This meant putting Steve-O’s COTD after the jump, which is why I’m giving an extra plug to it now.

2. There were two significant criminal trial verdicts yesterday: the guilty verdict in the trial of  Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman charged with murder for using text messages to persuade her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself, and the acquittal of the Minnesota police officers who shot and killed black motorist Philandro Castile during a traffic stop. I’ll cover the Carter case later.

There were the obligatory riots after the verdict acquitting Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile in his car after he told the officer that he was carrying a legally registered firearm and then reached for his wallet to show the officer his license. This is just the latest cattle-car in the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, the familiar pattern of a badly-trained cop, a dubious police stop, poor judgment by a victim, and a needless death. I would compare it to the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, where the officers involved weren’t even indicted.

Why in the world would a motorist tell a cop in that situation—Castile had been officially stopped for a broken tail light, but in reality because he was black, and the officers thought he resembled a suspect in a crime who was also black—that he had a gun? This could be interpreted as a threat, and obviously Yanez saw it as one. The verdict looks wrong at a gut level, but it is easy to see how the jurors were thinking: they placed themselves in the officer’s position. They would have been in fear of their lives, so they couldn’t find a way to pronounce Yanez a murderer for doing what they could see themselves doing under similar circumstances. This was a legitimate case for reasonable doubt under the law. Police officers, however, are supposed to be less likely to panic than a typical juror. Castile is dead because of incompetent police work, but the criminal laws don’t allow different standards to be applied  for different occupations, not should they. Continue reading