Tag Archives: civility

A Hopefully Calming Word From Your Host [Updated]

I would not have predicted that the NFL Anthem Protest (Or is it the anti-Trump protest? The “there are still injustices in America protest”?) Ethics Train Wreck would be the topic to cause multiple meltdowns, name-calling bouts and potty-mouth attacks among the veteran commenters here. I’ve given up on predicting which issues will ignite the assembled, however.

I am proud of the passion and intelligence with which the regular participants in this forum attack the varied matters I throw down for consideration. At their best, even the most intense debates usually bring more light than heat, to use the dichotomy poor Howard K. Smith employed when William F. Bucklet snapped, called Gore Vidal a “queer” on live TV and threatened to punch him out.  However at least four veteran commenters here have had Buckley-esque flip-outs of late, and that will not do.

I don’t expect this blog to ever be “safe.” Bad, lazy, poorly reasoned, biased and partisan opinions should always be called out, and in terms that fit the offense. I do not want to police words, but when we move beyond fair or at least supportable assessments of comments into insults and the denigration of commenters, I expect the ethics alarms to ring out. If they don’t sound, I don’t know what the purpose of Ethics Alarms is. Theoretically, we are here to learn from each other, and that means giving each other the benefit of an assumption of good will, and occasionally a damn break.

Those who have contributed positively here for a lengthy period build up credits that will allow them to commit one or more egregious breaches of decorum without any adverse action. Ironically, I also expect the veterans and frequent commenters to be role models, and lead by example.

I also want to urge some commenters here to make an effort to curtail endless, circular one-on-one debates  in which the objective deteriorates into getting the last word. In the past, Ethics Alarms has seen some epic debates resembling the Hundred Years War. What is remarkable about all of them is that it was clear as glass from the start that neither combatant was going to yield, and indeed was even fairly processing what his or her adversary was saying. I confess: outside of checking in periodically and making sure that the exchange isn’t resembling a Tarantino film, I don’t read these very long. They are boring. And because they are boring, they make Ethics Alarms boring.

Commenters with agendas are also a problem. If you approach every issue here knowing immediately what position you are going to take before you even read the post, I submit that your objective is less helping us nourish an ethical society than something else. You need to think about that, because it makes you a less valuable participant here. It also can make you annoying.

One more thing I need to add (and am adding as I am in a Fairfax, VA hotel after a horrible sleepless night as I prepare for a presentation to local lawyers about legal ethics and technology: occasionally pushing another commenter’s buttons—you know who has them, and what to push—is occasionally justifiable, but becomes sadistic and abusive if engaged in as a regular tactic.

You know, I’ve met a lot of you. There isn’t one commenter that I have met that I don’t like. Every one is a smart, passionate, interesting person. I would recommend that before you start hurling abuse at another empty face in cyberspace, consider that, as Marge Simpson sang in “O Streetcar!,” “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.”

We can get our work done civilly and respectfully. I’ve seen it. If all else fails, consider the advice of Elwood P. Dowd:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.

I recommend both.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid"

From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule

A video has gone viral, mostly thanks to conservative websites and blogs, of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell having an extended meltdown during the taping of his show, full of vulgar, expletive-laden explosions at his staff. Mediaite, the media gossip and news site, first released the video, and stitched together the multiple tantrums to make O’Donnell look especially ridiculous.

The tape resembles some classic moments from “SCTV on the Air,” the satirical syndicated ensemble comedy show ( with John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Ric Moranis, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas) that chronicled the mishaps of a struggling, fictional local TV station. It is indeed funny watching a news anchor lose it, and once he blows his gasket, O’Donnell is spectacular

You will not see Ethics Alarms criticizing O’Donnell, however. Nor will I link to the video.  (The clip of Steve Martin In “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” erupting at an airport rental car employee is as close as I will get.)  I know that I would be humiliated if one of my own bad moments during my work day, or after it, were surreptitiously videotaped and then leaked to the individuals I would least want to see it. I have had episodes, in the sparsely populated ProEthics offices, when stress, frustration, a series of horrible events and my own ineptitude have caused my emotions to boil over, and the resulting displays have not been something I would want shown to my grandchildren. If there is anyone who hasn’t had such episodes, I am awash in admiration.

I came close to having one today, in fact, after a string of annoyances was capped by the receipt of a summons from a deranged former commenter here, who is suing me for defamation because he says I was mean to him (I was; he deserved it) and wants me to pay him $100,000.  The suit is groundless and pure harassment, but I have better things to do with my time than deal with such things, and that did it for me.

My tirades are much more creative and active than O’Donnell’s. Also louder. Ask my wife.

There are few talking heads that I admire less than Lawrence O’Donnell. He is nasty, perpetually angry, and so left-biased that his head probably doesn’t turn to the right. I have been in the dark place where he was, however, and will be again. The only difference is that I do not have working with me the kind of unethical, vicious, back-stabbing  subordinates who would leak a video just to hurt me and my career. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Journalism & Media, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: The Nicely-Dressed Factor

(NPR says this was an actual passenger.)

When I fly, I always wear a sports jacket. No tie, often a sports shirt. Usually dress shoes, though not since I got mt neato-keen Boston Red Sox canvas deck shoes. Why do I do this? Apparently because I’m old, but also because of that old, archaic value, respect. If I’m in public, and especially if I’m going to be in close quarters with someone, I want the experience for them to be as pleasant as possible.

The airlines exercise very little dominion over what its passengers wear. Bare feet will keep you grounded; a T-shirt  with profanity or a lewd message may get you barred from a flight, but not much else. However, the airlines do notice what you wear, and what you wear may have benefits:

George Hobica, founder of the travel fare advice site Airfare Watchdog, said that “everyone believes no one gets upgraded anymore based on how they look.” But, he added, “It does happen.”… [Hobica] then relayed tales of friends who had been upgraded while wearing clothes they considered nicer than what they might wear to the gym or the grocery store, and a conversation he once had with a gate agent friend at Lufthansa.

“She told me she would upgrade people based on how good-looking they are, how pregnant they are, or how nicely they’re dressed,” he said. “She said: ‘Look, we oversell flights and, of course, we go down the status list first. Absolutely, we look at your miles.’” But if no one on the flight warrants special privileges, the absence of ripped jeans or tattered sneakers can help, Mr. Hobica said.

The Times got uniform denials that attire was rewarded when it contacted various airlines, but a flight attendant vaguely confirmed Hobica’s account.

“I will say that when I see someone come on the plane and they’re dressed nicely and their children are dressed nicely, I do take notice,” said …a United flight attendant since 1978. “When someone is a little dressed up and looking like they made an effort, it’s almost like they’re showing respect for themselves and for everybody else on the plane…My personal opinion is that when you take pride in how you look, you take pride in how you act,” she said.

Hmmmm.

The Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the day is…

It is ethical for polite attire to confer benefits for flyers over passengers who dress in flip-flops, tank-tops and torn jeans?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society

Ten Further Thoughts On The “The Taunting Girls Softball Team”

Well! I returned from my seminar to find an excellent discussion underway regarding this Morning’s Ethics Warm-up, wholly devoted to the Virginia girls softball team that was hammered mercilessly for the raised middle fingers of six teammates to send off their vanquished foes in the semi-finals. Here are some further thoughts after reading the comments:

1. There is no question that the conduct of the girls concerned the game, the sport, and the League. They were in uniform. The message directed the “up yours” gesture to the other team. This is not a case where personal expression via social media was punished by an outside authority. Ethics Alarms has been profuse in its rejections of efforts by schools to punish students for their language, ideas or other expression on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Those are clearly, in my view, abuses of power, parental authority and free expression. This is not like such cases in any way. If a cheerleader squad, wearing the uniforms, colors and emblems of a school, behaved like these girls, punishment by the school would be appropriate, right up to the “death sentence” of dissolving the squad.

2. Would the reaction to the photo be different if it were a boy’s team? I just don’t think so.

3. The comparison has been made to the earlier post about Matt Joyce, a major league player, being suspended by the league for a comment made to one fan during a game in a heated exchange. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone would think is similar about the two episodes, the primary difference being the fact that in one case, an adult was disciplined for professional misconduct on the field of play, and in the other, children were disciplined for breaching conduct their sport and organization exists in part to teach, reinforce and convey. The punishment of the player was $60,000 in lost income for a single word, not broadcast via social media. The team was not punished except to have to play without his services for two games, but then it was not colorably a team offense by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t even want to think about what an MLB team would do to six players who, in uniform, made the same gesture the girls did to “our fans.” They might all get released. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Social Media, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/8/2017: The Taunting Girl’s Softball Team

Good Morning!

I’m squeezed today like fresh orange juice!

I have an early morning ethics seminar in about 90 minutes, so one topic is all I have time for. But it is a good warm-up, reaching an ethics issue—the proper level of punishment for civility breaches in sports— recently discussed here, but with very different factors and ethical considerations involved.

Here and Virginia, many are steaming over the harsh punishment handed down to the victorious Atlee Little League girls’ softball team, which was kicked out of  the Junior League World Series,  featuring the best 12-to-15-year-old girls teams in the world, only hours before its players were about to take the field on national television. The team’s offense: an unsportsmanlike social media post, taunting its last opponent.

Atlee prevailed in a week long tournament in Kirkland, Washington, culminating in tense 1-0 victory in the semifinal game against the host team. Apparently resentment between the teams ran high, and the game featured a controversy over the Kirkland team stealing signs. (Stealing signs in a girls’ softball game? Wow. I didn’t even think there were signs in girls’ softball!)

After the victory, the carptain of the Atlee team used Snapchat to post a photo of showing six members of the team flipping the Fuck You Finger at the Kirkland team.

The Atlee manager Scott Currie heard about the post and had it deleted. Then he arranged for his team to deliver a formal apology in person  to the Kirkland players the same evening. Nonetheless, it was too little, too late. The next morning the head office of the Little League World Series disqualified Atlee from the tournament, and awarded Kirkland the berth in the title game.

The Junior League  issued the following statement:

“After discovering a recent inappropriate social media post involving members of Atlee Little League’s Junior League Softball tournament team, the Little League® International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.”

Not surprisingly, supporters of the Atlee team, and the team itself, feel that the punishment is excessive.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Social Media, Sports, U.S. Society

More Speech Policing In The Service Of Political Correctness: The Matt Joyce Affair

“GET HIM! He used a bad word!!!”

An obnoxious fan was verbally abusing Oakland A’s player Matt Joyce during 8-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, and he responded in kind, or perhaps worse than in-kind, since what the fan was saying has not been reported. In his angry exchange with the fan, however, Joyce used what is only described as an “anti-gay slur,” which I assume to be “fag” or faggot.” If it was “cocksucker,” which I don’t believe is an anti-gay slur as used by athletes and others, then the description is misleading.

I have no problem with the fact that Joyce was disciplined for this. He’s a professional, and major league players have to put up with fans, even those who behave despicably. (Harassing a player with abusive verbiage is unethical, and the fan should have been ejected.) However, the player’s offense was a single word, and the punishment was two games suspension, which in Joyce’s case is about a $60,000 fine. $60,000 for a single word hurled in the midst of an argument is cruel and unusual punishment. Worse, Major League Baseball required that Joyce now participate in an outreach program with PFLAG, a “family and ally organization” supporting the LGBTQ community. That’s indoctrination, and an abuse of authority. The issue is incivility, not insufficient sensitivity to a minority group.

Joyce grovelled and apologized all over the place on Twitter, as if he had condemned the entire LGBT community. He needed to apologize to the fan he used the word on. That’s all. As we discussed in the case of a previous ballplayer, Kevin Pillar, disciplined this year for using the same term during play, this appears to be virtue-signalling by MLB, and unfair. Would Joyce have been suspended for, say, calling the fan “fuckhead”? Would he have to go to Fuckhead Sensitivity Training?

I wrote, Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Rights, Sports

A Congress Of Assholes*? Maxine Waters Demolishes Basic Principles Of Ethical Comportment

*The headline relates to this and related posts.

I’ll spare you the horror of having to watch the entire video above, and display the transcript of Watts Rep. Maxine Waters as she abused Treasury Secretary  Steve Mnuchin at a House Financial Services Committee hearing this week. Waters continued to interrupt Mnuchin as he attempted to answer her hostile cross-examination. Her mantra “reclaiming my time” expressed her ridiculous position that any words from the guest of the committee that didn’t specifically address her questions to her satisfaction was an intrusion on her time for shameless grandstanding. Note the committee chairman’s explanation to Mnuchin that while the rules can direct how testifiers should be treated, they cannot dictate how they will be treated. In other words, if a member is determined to behave like a rude, disrespectful jerk, she will.

Here’s the mind-blowing transcript. It didn’t literally blow my mind, hence no KABOOM! designation, because Waters is such a well-known and beyond a shadow of a doubt hyper-partisan fool and embarrassment to the nation that pretty much nothing she might do or say can shock me sufficiently. Does it not occur to Africa-American majority districts that electing Representatives this incompetent, shrill and offensive is not in their best interest, even though the Democratic Party and the news media bend themselves in half to pretend she isn’t a disgrace.

Transcript:

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership