From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All

The above cartoon is the work of Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist of some note. Apparently the drawing got him into serious trouble with the social media and political correctness mobs Down Under. Color me completely bewildered, mate.

I have always regarded Australia as a having an admirably  rough, honest, brutally independent and common sense-based culture. Apparently I’m missing something; maybe one of Ethics Alarms’ Australian readers can explain what. (There have been about 24,000 views of the blog there so far this year; Australia is the second largest source of Ethics Alarms readers outside the U.S., after Canada.)

Because of the cartoon, Leunig, who has been creating cartoons professionally to express political and social commentary for half a century, is being threatened with cultural “cancellation.” He writes in part that the drawing has “brought so much hostile public reaction that I began to lie awake at night wondering why I had followed such a troubled, painful and precarious career path….

…[To]be so hated, insulted, slandered in the public domain for this – as I was – is indeed a dismal fate for the lone cartoonist. It speaks volumes about the current condition of civil society and tolerance. This is bigotry. The malice has been astounding and so extreme that it has plunged me into a deep contemplation about the nature of angry hatred. Indeed, I am coming to the view that there is an emerging new form of hatred in society which might be more of a mental illness than a passing emotion. Perhaps I would call it “free-floating, obsessive compulsive hatred”.

His son wrote of the effect on the cartoonist’s family: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2020: Dogs, Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, D.C., Jimmy Kimmel, Threatening Deplorables And Restricting Rights

Well, dogs are good, anyway…

1. Stop making  dogs defend Mike Bloomberg!…Is there anything too trivial that people won’t use to attack politicians? A CBS News video began circulating online yesterday afternoon showing Michael Bloomberg shaking hands with a man in Burlington, Vermont, then taking his dog’s upper jaw  in his hand and “shaking” the dog’s  snout  He then scratched the dog’s ears. The social media mob called him a dog abuser.

Morons. That’s a move that most dogs enjoy, as well as someone grasping their whole muzzle. It shows Bloomberg is comfortable with and knowledgeable about dogs. I used to do both moves with our 165 pound English Mastiff, and our Jack Russells.

2.  I know this is of interest to almost nobody who isn’t a lawyer, but trust me, it’s a big deal. The District of Columbia has long been the only U.S. jurisdiction that allows law firms to have non-lawyer partners, a structure prevented everywhere else by the general prohibition on lawyers sharing their fees with non-lawyers. When D.C. adopted its revolutionary approach, it assumed that the states would soon follow, with the American Bar Association’s assent. Because that hasn’t happened, a state-licensed lawyer with a D.C. license participating in a legal firm in D.C. could technically be found to  be violating that state’s ethics rules , though the District has negotiated a truce in that potential controversy.

Meanwhile, those special law firms with non-lawyer members are proliferating like legal rabbits. Now  a Jan. 23 press release tells the world that the District of Columbia Bar is taking comments regarding proposed changes to its ethics rules that could allow external ownership of law firms, as well as blended businesses in which lawyers and non-lawyers provide both legal and nonlegal services, like accounting. Or massages–who knows? Right now, law firms by definition can only practice law.

Perhaps even more significantly, California, Utah and Arizona are also studying changes that would relax ethics rules barring non-lawyers from holding a financial interest in law firms. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2019: Defending Bette, Not Defending Cuba Or The Giant Christmas Penis….

Good Morning!

1. Regarding the President’s military pardons. This story is now a month old, and my post about it got derailed, so let me be brief. The uproar over these pardons was overblown, and yes, by the media. I never read any mention in the various reports, for example, about how Jimmy Carter, then Governor of Georgia,  announced his outrage when Lt,  William Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre . Carter instituted American Fighting Man’s Day in support of Calley, and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on.  Calley only served seven years of his sentence.

It is important for the military to insist on discipline, and I think President Trump was wrong to interfere with it in these cases. Each of them has a different set of facts, but the President’s statement about the inherent unfairness of training human beings to kill, placing them in deadly situations and unimaginable stress, and then punishing them when their fury and programmed violence erupts in illegal violence and other acts (like posing in a photo with a dead enemy  combatant) has validity. My father, who had been in combat in World War II, regarded such crimes as the equivalent of “battle fatigue.” He hated General Patton for slapping the GI suffering from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in a field hospital, and felt that harshly punishing soldiers for the kinds of incidents Trump’s beneficiaries engaged in was wrong and hypocritical.

Any time any convicted American is pardoned, there are arguments that clemency undermines the justice system. In the end, this is a policy dispute. The military has good reasons to object to such pardons, but President Trump’s decision is defensible, and would probably be considered so if he were anyone else.

2.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. is now in Bill Cosby territory. Seven more women have come forward to accuse the popular actor of sexually assaulting them. This brings the total number of accusers up to 22.

In one court filing, a woman alleges that after she met Mr. Gooding at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 2009, he took her to a concert, where he began to kiss her in a secluded hallway as she was attempting to leave. Then he placed his hands on her buttocks, and pushed onto her crotch so forcefully that her tights ripped.  The woman bit Mr. Gooding’s cheek so she could escape. Another woman accused the 51-year-old Gooding of sliding his hand down her pants and grabbing her buttocks at a restaurant in 2011. Yet another accuser says that he grabbed her vagina twice at a restaurant in  in 2016, according  the court filings.

Gooding’s legal team argues that the new claims are from women looking to cash in  due to his celebrity status. maybe, but history and experience suggests otherwise.

Whatever the culture is that gives men the idea that they can act like this and that there is nothing wrong with it needs to be rejected, since it obviously came special delivery from Hell. I would no more have done any of those things, even in the prime of youth, than I would have ridden a pogo stick into church with a wombat on my head. I assumed everyone was raised like that. Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

“A Nation Of Assholes” Update From Peggy Noonan Channeling Edith Wharton

 

Former Ronald Reagan muse Peggy Noonan, now an op-ed columnist regarded as too old (and too conservative) to even turn up as a guest on Sunday Morning TV talk shows any more, has registered an anachronistic column at the Wall Street Journal in the voice of Edith Wharton, (1862-1937), author of the Gilded Age novels “The Age of Innocence,” and others, who was the first American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her, that is, their, theme is that the nation’s culture has turned rude and uncouth, and that “a great nation cannot continue in this way. Nations run in part on manners; they are the lubricant that allows the great machine to hum.”

Ethics Alarms warned that the nation risked this fate, as many of you remember, if it elected a rude and uncouth leader, Donald Trump to be specific. Noonan is simply documenting that what I said would come to pass way back in 2015, and what was, in my view, the most undeniable reason to avoid electing this President. However, as with everything else, not all of the maladies being laid at Mr. Trump’s metaphorical doorstep are his doing, nor are all of them really maladies just because they would have offended Edith Wharton.

Let’s look at “Peggy Wharton’s” indictment. In the spirit of the mind-numbingly repetitious TV game show that somehow lasted for more than one episode, let’s play “Trump or No Trump”!

Peggy commences, “Among the harassments I see you inflict on each other: Continue reading

“Wait, Say That Again, Please…This Damn Little Girl I’m Walking With Keeps Distracting Me…”

Just because it is becoming an “old man shouts at cloud” cliche to point out that electronic devices are encouraging bad habits that will do unpredictable harm to society and human relations in the future doesn’t mean the observation isn’t true, or that it shouldn’t be heeded.

Yesterday, while walking Rugby in a glorious afternoon sun, I found my attention  diverted by the sound of a tiny child’s shout of glee and wonder.  A little girl, resplendent in a pink dress but not yet capable of coherent speech, had seen my happy Jack Russell from across the street and was pointing to him, laughing, and trying to get the attention of her mother as the two walked along in the opposite direction of where we were headed.  I also tried to get the woman’s notice, since my practice is to take Rugby to kids when they exhibit the reactions the little girl was running through.

The mother, however, was fully occupied talking on her cell phone. She never looked up, never saw me, never saw Rugby, or acknowledged her daughter. She just snatched the girl’s hand—the little girl had been previously hustling to keep up with her—and pulled her past us as the toddler looked longingly behind, and Rugby wagged his tail. Of course, she never interrupted the call, which I’m certain was crucial to world peace.

I see this all the time, more and more frequently: parents spending “quality time” with their children by having the kids walk along side of them (or behind), almost completely ignored, while they give most of their attention to chatting or texting to some distant friend or associate. The behavioreven bothers me when it is a dog rather than a child who being ignored, but dogs recover from neglect, emotional and otherwise, a lot better than children.

That woman, I thought, wouldn’t chat away on a phone call if she were walking with an adult companion, and then I instantly erased the idea: I have seen people doing that, too. Recently, waiting for my wife outside of the 7-11, I witnessed the depressing sight of  four teenagers walking along together, saying nothing, all with their eyed fastened to smartphones. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/22/2018: Blemishes

Goooood Morning!

1. What is so hard to understand about the concept of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly? The Daily Beast negligently covers a story about how some alt-right groups are planning some kind of anniversary/reunion event in Charlottesville. (Funny, I thought we celebrated anniversaries of good things) and how some activists are plotting to block them. I especially like this sentence:

“Activists warned Charlottesville last year that the Unite the Right rally could turn violent. Now they’re determined to keep neo-Nazis out of their city for the anniversary.”

The rally turned violent because the counter-demonstrators turned it violent with help from authorities, who couldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t want to keep the alt-right and the antifa demonstrations away from each other. This is the Berkeley trick: “Your speech will incite violence from us, so its irresponsible for you to speak. This issue was supposedly settled when the ACLU fought to allow Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois 40 years ago.  In the end, the Nazis didn’t march but the principle that they couldn’t be blocked because of their message was made clear. I wonder if the self-righteous, speech-restriction fans represented by Black Lives Matter activist Lisa Woolfork even know about that case, given such ignorant quotes as,

“[Charlottesville authorities] seem to have gotten the message that white supremacist ideology is dangerous, but they are not willing to take, I believe, the truly moral step to say Kessler’s rally is a white supremacist Nazi rally, and therefore is inimical to our values and that we can ban that.”

No Lisa, you can’t ban that. You can’t ban ideas, no matter how dangerous you think they are, or how dangerous they in fact may be. The theory that the government should ban speech based on morality is infinitely more dangerous than anything these alt-right jerks say, but you still have the guaranteed right to promote such democracy-rotting garbage. Another Lisa quote:

“We did not ignore the white supremacists and let them proceed to go about their business undisturbed without any censure. These ideas are harmful, and they lead to horrible consequences in the real world.”

And I repeat: What is so hard to understand about the concept of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly? It sure seems to be especially hard to understand for the Left recently. Continue reading