Tag Archives: censorship

Nazi Memorabilia Ethics?

“ARRRGHHH!!!!”

I haven’t checked in on The Ethicist column in the New York Time Magazine in a while: the current resident, Kwame Anthony Appiah, is the real McCoy, unlike all of his predecessors, and his analysis of various queries from readers is usually valid and properly reasoned. This week’s featured issue is a strange one, however.

A Peter Hulit of Los Angeles wrote to ask what was the “ethical way” to deal with  a belt buckle from a Nazi uniform that was stored in his late father’s box of World War II memorabilia, collected during his service overseas. Hulit explained,

“I have kept it stashed in my desk. I’m now in my 60s and really don’t want it in my house..I have checked resale sites, and it does have some monetary value, but I do not want it to fall into hands that may use it symbolically for what my father fought against.”

I rate this question as more evidence of Nazi hysteria, one of the side-effect of the 2016 post election Ethics Train Wreck that includes the effort by the Left to slander opposition to Democrats, Clinton and Obama as nascent fascism. It is also a continuation of the historical air-brushing that Orwellian progressives seem to think will magically eliminate all evils from modern society.

World War II artifacts are history and are tools of acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is what those seeing German Nazi motivations in President Trump and his supporters sorely lack. There is no such thing as dangerous history. What is dangerous is to forget history, or to try to pretend that what happened did not.

Nor are objects cursed, or evil. People are evil, and history leaves evidence of evil deeds.  “I don’t want it in my house” smacks of superstition. It’s a belt buckle.

Hulit’s question seems to suck The Ethicist down some unethical holes that he should avoid, and usually does. For example, he writes, Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Notre Dame Political Science Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at The University of Notre Dame. Following the violent protest that prevented his announced lecture at Middlebury College earlier this month, Prof. Muñoz invited Murray to speak at the University of Notre Dame next week. This occasioned some protests and objections from students and faculty at his own college, and he responded with an essay at RealClearPolitics, writing in part…

Charles Murray is speaking at Notre Dame because I and another Political Science professor assigned his book “Coming Apart” in our classes. His visit is one of several outside lectures that are part of this semester’s Constitutional Studies offerings. My class, “Constitutional Government & Public Policy,” addresses some of the most important and divisive issues in American politics: abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom, inequality, freedom of speech, death penalty, race and the meaning of constitutional equality, immigration, euthanasia, and pornography.

 The class is designed to prompt students to think more deeply and thoughtfully about contemporary moral and political issues. I don’t assign a textbook or “neutral” readings that summarize the issues; I require students to read principled thinkers who advocate vigorously for their respective position. I want my conservative students to read smart, persuasive liberal thinkers, and I want my liberal students to read thoughtful conservatives. Educated citizens can give reasons for their beliefs and can defend intellectually the positions they hold. That requires that we understand and articulate the positions with which we disagree.

…“But Murray is controversial and will make students feel uncomfortable,” my faculty colleagues say. Don’t I know that he has been accused of being racist, anti-gay, and a white nationalist? I’m told that bringing him to campus is not fair to Notre Dame’s marginalized students.

I have no desire to inflict unwanted stress or anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community, especially our minority students. I appreciate the concern for student well being that motivates some of the opposition to Murray’s visit. But I believe what is most harmful to students—and, to speak candidly, most patronizing—is to “protect” our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.To study politics today requires handling controversial, difficult, and divisive topics…

The price of a real education is hearing powerful arguments that make us realize our opinions are based on untested assumptions. Only then, when we realize that we do not know as much as we think we know, can genuine learning occur.

I invited Dr. Murray to Notre Dame months ago…Given what happened at Middlebury, it would be cowardly to disinvite Murray now. Rescinding his invitation would communicate that violence works; that if you want to influence academia, sharpen your elbows, not your mind. It would tell those who engaged in violence—and those who might engage in or threaten violence—that universities will cower if you just appear intimidating. Rescinding Murray’s invitation would teach exactly the wrong lesson…

Notre Dame faculty critical of Murray have implored me to think about the larger context of what his visit means. I am. That is why I will not rescind his invitation. As a professor and program director, my job is to do what we are supposed to do at universities: pursue the truth through reasoned dialogue and discussion. Whether you find Charles Murray’s scholarship persuasive or objectionable, his visit offers an opportunity to learn. That is why I invited him to speak at Notre Dame. After Middlebury, it’s all the more important that he do so.

It is almost an insult to academia to call Prof. Muñoz ‘s statement heroic. It should be obvious. Dissenters from the position he articulates should be instantly recognizable as regrettable outliers, the opponents of academic freedom and freedom of thought, the advocates of censorship and ideological indoctrination. Yet increasingly it is this traditional view of higher education that Muñoz advocates that is under attack. Continue reading

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Catching Up On “Instersectionality,” And Finally Paying Attention

There are more than 22,000 tags used here, even if you eliminate the duplicates due to my typo problem, and still  “intersectionality” is not among them. I have seen the term, mostly recently, but only in contexts that led me to dismiss it as leftist, scholarly jargon, the kind of word radicals throw around to confuse their opposition and make people think they are intellectual when they are really arguing nonsense. I wasn’t wrong: it is one of those words. Still, it is a useful one, because it helps explain several phenomena of great importance, which can be collectively described as the increasing totalitarian tilt of the political left, especially since the election of Donald Trump. I should have realized the importance of the word long  ago and investigated: I apologize. Bias makes me  stupid too.

Over at New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan had one of his lucid moments—when he can bypass his anger at anti-gay attitudes (the bias that makes HIM stupid), Sullivan can be brilliant—, and delivered a perceptive essay about “intersectionality,” beginning with the recent disgrace on the Middlebury College campus, where a student protest designed to prevent sociologist Charles Murray from speaking turned into a violent riot, injuring a professor. Do read all of Sullivan’s article, but here are some key passages:

[W]hat grabbed me was the deeply disturbing 40-minute video of the event, posted on YouTube. It brings the incident to life in a way words cannot. At around the 19-minute mark, the students explained why they shut down the talk, and it helped clarify for me what exactly the meaning of “intersectionality” is.

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required….

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably….Murray’s old work on IQ demonstrates no meaningful difference between men and women, and Murray has long supported marriage equality. He passionately opposes eugenics. He’s a libertarian. But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all. If you think that race may be both a social construction and related to genetics, your claim to science is just another form of oppression. It is indeed hate speech….This matters, it seems to me, because reason and empirical debate are essential to the functioning of a liberal democracy. We need a common discourse to deliberate. We need facts independent of anyone’s ideology or political side, if we are to survive as a free and democratic society. Trump has surely shown us this. And if a university cannot allow these facts and arguments to be freely engaged, then nowhere is safe. Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.

This outburst was apparently too much for Andrew, his old libertarian/conservative persona emerging full-force after a long hiatus, so his piece suddenly shifts into a standard issue anti-Trump rant. It’s fascinating to see, because Andrew apparently hates the President so much that he can’t perceive that the same antipathy created by “intersectionality” that he rebuts regarding Murray (after all, Sullivan is friends with Murray), applies to the President (whom he detests) as well. The proof is how Trump’s misogyny and opposition to illegal immigration has led the Left to presume that he is racist, classist and homophobic as well. He’s not. But, to quote Sullivan against himself, “But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all.”

Thus Sullivan pivots to blaming all of the social and political tilt he correctly deems as dangerous on Donald Trump, and in doing so, he becomes the partisan hack he so often appears to be: Continue reading

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Integrity Test For The Angry Left “Resisters”: Why, In Light Of Your Conduct And Rhetoric Since November 8, Is This Analysis Unreasonable?

civil-unrest

The last time Ethics Alarms  highlighted a provocative post by conservative writer Kurt Schlicter, it was designated here as irresponsible. I’m not as certain that his latest is. I wonder if there are Democrats and progressives who can make a substantive argument that he isn’t expressing a legitimate concern. ( Ad hominem arguments not accepted.)

The post is called Straightforward From Here To The Left’s Fascist, Maybe Violent, Endgame.

Here are some excerpts, with my initial reactions:

The Democrat Party, its Media serfs, and Social Justice Incorporated are all outraged because we uppity normals are again presuming to rule ourselves, and their agony is delightful. Less delightful is how, in the process of trying to claw their way back into power, they are incinerating the norms and rules that preserve our political order. That stuff Hillary babbled about honoring the legitimacy of elections? Yeah, no. There’s an invisible asterisk only liberals can see that explains that the norms and rules are void when liberals lose.

I don’t see how this statement can be rebutted. The tone is hostile, but the analysis is accurate.

Think what they will do if they take power again. They are certainly not going to risk us ever being able to repeat November’s rejection. California’s decline lays out their tyrannical road map. When the Democrats took power here, they “reformed” the election laws to lock-in their party, co-opted the “nonpartisan” redistricting process, and changed the ballot initiative system to make sure we will never see another unapproved proposition. They ensured there is no way to stop illegal aliens from voting because they want illegal aliens voting.

Over the top, but not too far. California no longer has a two party system, and has embraced progressive cant as policy even when there is no evidence that it won’t be disastrous, as with the high-speed rail debacle and the commitment to double the minimum wage. Of course, Democrats will take power again. If too many conservatives feel about them like Schlicter does, the conservative “resistance” may make this “resistance” look like child’s play.

Do you think Hillary Clinton or whatever aspiring Hugo Chavez they offer up next is going to protect us from violent leftist thugs, or encourage them? Remember how Obama weaponized agencies like the IRS against conservatives? Multiply that by a thousand. Think about the “hate speech” rules used to silence conservatives on campus; imagine them as federal law. That’s coming, just like in Europe – it’s now a crime in France to speak out against abortion. Do you imagine leftists don’t dream of doing that? No, once back in power they will ensure we will never be able to challenge their rule. One man (or woman or other), one vote, one more time, then never again.

It is, in fact, now illegal to oppose abortion in France. In the U.S. Robert Kennedy III has advocated imprisoning climate change skeptics. The popular progressive, globalist argument that progressives always use to advocate government health care, gun bans, and elimination of capital punishment are easily adaptable to free speech restrictions, and Democratic members of Congress have endorsed those already. The casual shrug the mainstream news media gave to the IRS scandal while the Holder Justice Department refused to investigate it was just as ominous as Schlicter implies. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Robert Reich

“I was there for part of last night, and I know what I saw and those people were not Berkeley students. Those people were outside agitators. I have never seen them before.There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a kind of group that was organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event. So Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth.”

—-Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, spinning himself silly to allow his leftist-colleagues to duck accountability for the Berkeley rioting.

Nope, I don't believe it.

Nope, I don’t believe it.

Robert Reich isn’t a supposed to be a political hack. He’s a scholar and a former Cabinet member. Yet he felt it necessary to abandon all logic and honesty in order to try to shift blame for a leftist anti-Trump, anti-speech riot on a major college campus onto its targets. This might be good news: Reich is no fool, and maybe the Angry Left is beginning to realize that its tactics have backfired. So now it is just lying and blame-shifting. That’s an improvement. Sort of.

Reich’s statement is unbelievable on its face. He teaches at Berkeley, but does he really expect anyone to believe that in the middle of a night-time riot, he was in a position to recognize individual rioters and render an informed judgment regarding whether they were students? The school has more than 38,000 students! It is impossible for Reich to know all of them, and during the chaos of a riot at night, it is highly unlikely that he could even distinguish the students in his own classes. His  unequivocal statement that none of the rioters were students is a false one: he cannot know that. He cannot know they were “outside agitators.” He cannot know that he had never seen them before, especially since many of them were wearing masks.

Then he says that there are rumors that they were “right-wingers,” and in the next sentence implies the truth of those rumors. You know, I’ve heard rumors for years that Robert Reich is really one of the Seven Dwarfs, escaped from the fairy tale, like in “Enchanted.” The smart money is on “Doc.” However, since there isn’t a shred of evidence that this rumor is true, and thus suggesting otherwise would be unfair and dishonest, I would never, never state that Reich is close associate of Snow White and Dopey. Reich, however, feels constrained by no such principles, being, apparently, a devotee of the false dialectic employed by leftists for a century or so.

Boy, did I get sick of arguing with people like him is college. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On Berkeley’s Anti-Speech Riot

Protesters setup fires during a protest against right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos who was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Doig Duran/Bay Area News Group)

From SF Gate:

A protest at UC Berkeley over a scheduled appearance by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos turned fiery and violent Wednesday night, prompting police to cancel the event and hustle the Breitbart News editor off campus. But even after the event’s cancellation, hundreds of protesters spilled off campus into the city streets, where the violence continued as they confronted drivers, engaged in fights, smashed storefront windows and set fires.

Protesters decried President Trump’s policies as much as they did the visit by Yiannopoulos, a gay conservative who has been making the rounds at college campuses across the country with his “Dangerous Faggot” talks, specializing in remarks meant to insult, offend and disgust liberals who disagree with his ideas.

More from Heat Street:

The violent riots that convulsed the campus of the University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday evening were driven by rioters identifying as “Antifa”, self-styled anti-fascism activists who align with anarchism.

The violence began when hundreds of anti-Trump demonstrators forcefully disrupted a speaking event featuring the conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. The protests turned into full blown riots after “Antifa” rioters shot fireworks at the building in which the event was set to take place, smashing windows with police barricades and destroyed several large light fixtures. The Antifa members dressed in all black and wore gas masks and face coverings to hide their identity. These rioters led the most aggressive elements of the demonstration.

Police and campus administrators repeatedly ordered the mob to disperse, to which rioters responded with chants of “Fuck you! Fuck you!” and “Fuck Trump!”

Nice.

You will notice that last part  appears to be an exact quote from Madonna at the Women’s March….

Some unpleasant ethics observations: Continue reading

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It’s Theater Ethics vs. High School Ethics, And Incredibly, Both Win

New Jersey’s Cherry Hill School District announced last week that the planned Spring student production of the 1998 Broadway musical “Ragtime” would continue to be rehearsed and would proceed, despite the complaints of some parents. However, student actors would not use “nigger” and other racially-charged terms in the original script. They would be changed or eliminated, the District said.

A spokeswoman for the district, said at the time that officials had already been discussing the possibility of censoring the Cherry Hill High School East production when the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association and the NAACP offered their remedies: censorship, political correctness, and bye-bye free expression and thought. Of course this was their reaction. It is simple-minded, but typical of left-wing political correctness tyranny. It doesn’t matter what ideas are being conveyed, certain words cannot be used to convey them. Whenever possible, the heavy boot of government should crush the non-conforming expression. Also “of course,” lily-livered school administrators initially offered no opposition. Duck the controversy, and the real issues be damned. After all, it’s just a high school musical.

Unfortunately, there was the little issue of licensing agreements. “Ragtime” is a work of art, not that the NAACP cares, and artists have a right to control how their work is performed, even in Cherry Hill. The contract under which the school was allowed to produce the show specifies that the script and songs must be performed as written, no exceptions.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the Dramatists Guild of America, and Arts Integrity Initiative wrote a smart letter urging the school officials “to reconsider and reverse [the] decision to censor “Ragtime”:

“Ragtime’s” use of racial slurs is an historically accurate and necessary aspect of a play that explores race relations in the early 1900s. Ragtime helps minors understand the brutalities of racism and the anger that has historically accumulated, partly through the use of racially offensive language. In contrast, censorship of such language ignores historical reality and presents a falsified, whitewashed view of race relations. Censoring the play will only perpetuate ignorance of our past. While we empathize with concerns about the emotionally disturbing effects of hearing or uttering racial slurs, we believe such concerns are to be resolved through educational means, not by censoring a renowned text. In our experience, similar concerns… have best been confronted through dialogue rather than censorship.”

Then the students, who had been rehearsing the show since before Christmas (no, real high school performers can’t prepare an elaborate show of professional quality in a few days, as “Glee” would have us believe), created a petition on Change.Org: Continue reading

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