A Brief Ethics Observation: Kudos To The Ethics Alarms Commentariat (Bad Link Fixed!)

hysteria

In my father’s favorite poem, Rudyard Kipling salutes those who can keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs. Yes, he ends his verse with “You’ll be a man, my son,” thus resulting in the 21st Century ignoring Kipling’s wisdom because he expressed these sentiments in the context of his own culture and time rather than ours. (Fortunately, actress Ellen Page just demonstrated that any woman who feels left out can join Kipling’s target audience by just announcing she’s a man, so maybe Rudyard’s return to respectability is imminent.)

I have to peruse a lot of websites and social media to keep Ethics Alarms current, and I can state without hesitation that people are losing their heads with alarming frequency. I just read an alarming series of comments, almost 200 of them, on an Althouse post. I regard Ann’s blog as as close to this one in tone and orientation as any other I have encountered, although as with Ethics Alarms, it appears that most of her left-of-center commentators have fled because she has tried to be fair to President Trump. The thread is scary, as are several others of late. Some commenters are saying that Joe Biden will never take office. Some are openly trying to organize an armed insurrection. With very few exceptions, commenters are resorting to snark and bitterness rather than substance.

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Comment Of The Day: “Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020”

I am jumping Mrs. Q’s (characteristically concise, wise, eloquent) Comment of the Day past some others on the runway because it’s object will not have a long shelf-life. She has expressed her reaction to the blog’s unofficial resident contrarian’s recent voluntary exit from the commentariat of Ethics Alarms in a manner that beautifully frames what the ethical values of openness, acceptance, tolerance, empathy, respect and kindness look like in practice. (Let me take this opportunity to nudge Mrs. Q into reconsidering her own decision to suspend the column she has here. Her ratio of commenting excellence remains unmatched, and that forum remains open whenever her other priorities allow her the time to access it.)

For reference purposes, here is Alizia’s own Comment of the Day from last November, which provides a relatively mild sample of her contributions here.

And here is Mrs. Q’s, on item #1 from yesterday’s “Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020.”

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Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020.

Antifa arrests

Every one of the antifa rioters arrested in Portland a couple nights ago!

***

I have what I believe is an important ethics essay completed in my head—that’s the weird way I write, and nobody knows why—and I just haven’t had the time or the energy to get it done. I’m sorry. Today, actual ethics work intervened. It’s not that there wasn’t time to finish that post (and two others that are almost written), but that the long posts really need my complete attention, and that was impossible today, as it has been increasingly frequently of late.

1. Goodbye Alizia. One of Ethics Alarms more controversial and prolific contributors informed me that she was leaving the comment wars, presumably permanently. I agreed with virtually nothing she wrote, and found her characterization of the approach to ethics here ranging from bizarre to infuriating to hilarious. I also, I must confess, often failed to do more than skim many of her epic screeds, which I found about as forbidding as Finnegan’s Wake. She has been, however, a unique voice here, a sincere and serious one, and virtually always civil. I also admire her resilience, since few participants here have been battered as intensely and personally as she was.

Or accused of being a robot.

Recently there had been suggestions that my failure to ban her from commenting—she is a white supremacist, after all, as well as anti-Semitic—has cost Ethics Alarms readers. Any potential readers who would reject this ethics blog because he or she objects to the opinion of another reader can go piss in their hats, to be blunt. I reject the entire attitude behind such a reaction. There have been commenters who have made me wince when I saw they had weighed in, since I had a pretty good idea what I was in for; indeed Alizia was one of them. But I have to read the comments here—the format includes my actively engaging with those bold enough to speak up. EA recently passed the 12,000 post mark, and I lead all commenters with over 50,000 replies. Nobody, however, has to read any particular commenter, or any of them. Nor am I responsible for the opinions offered here by others. I have Comment Policies, and generally stick to them. Veteran commenters receive a lot of leeway, because they do contribute content to the blog, like it or not. Yes, there is a provision that says a commenter can be banned for “…Exhibiting racism or other bias.” I interpret that narrowly, in part because a theme here has been the effort by progressives to demonize and suppress speech they find inconvenient or upsetting, and to abuse the label of “racist” to do it. I have chosen to err on the side of free expression, especially when it is under assault, and when the party that signals an intent to metaphorically kneel on liberty’s throat seems poised to take power.

But I digress.

Alizia informed me of her decision in a graceful and uncharacteristically brief note. I told her that she would be missed, at least by me.

2. Ah, Portland… Yesterday, after promoting the event on social media as an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” protesters toppled statues Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, then went on to ruin the entrance to the Oregon Historical Society before moving into other areas of downtown, smashing storefronts and engaging in a full-fledged riot. Police ordered the rioters moving  through the city’s streets to disperse but this being Portland, but did not directly intervene until nearly an hour after the first statue fell.

The organizers had called for “direct action” and demanded that onlooker who happened upon the group were ordered to stop filming or delete photographs. An apartment resident who tried to shoot a video from his terrace had lasers aimed at his eyes and a liquid thrown in his face. There were about 200 in the group dressed in black, some with body armor, shields, and weapons.

These are the people Americans are voting for when they support the Democratic party in 2020. Joe Biden has passively supported them and their violence with his weasel words, and his VP has directly endorsed them.

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A Brief Note To Commenters…

I am so proud of you all, and Ethics Alarms,  today. The quality of discussion on multiple posts and threads is outstanding, as varied, eloquent and and thoughtful as I have ever seen it. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all participants.

And since I’m here, I might as well note that July 16 is Ethics Ambivalence Day, or perhaps Watch Out For Moral Luck Day. Which of these events that occured on July 16th can be confidently and uncontroversially  designated in retrospect as “good”?

  • In 1790, Congress declared Washington, D.C. the new capital.

The new Congress chose a swampy, humid, muddy and mosquito-infested site on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia to be the nation’s permanent capital. Brilliant!

  • In 1918, the Romanov family was executed.

This ended a 300-year imperial dynasty,  and sent Russia down the road of Communism.  But they got rid of those damn Czars!

  • In 1935,  the world’s first parking meter was installed.

The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, eventually helping municipalities to balance their budgets nation wide.

  • In 1951, “Catcher in the Rye” was published.

J.D. Salinger’s only full-length novel, about a confused and nihilistic teenager would be taught in high schools for half a century. Why, I will never know.

  • In 1995, Amazon opened for business.

No comment.

  • In 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project resulted in the first atom bomb successfully exploding in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.
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Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

That’s my favorite Arthur Sullivan Easter hymn…

Our family always celebrated Easter twice, at least when Greek Easter fell on a different date, which is usually the case.On traditional Easter, until my sister and I were well into high school, my parents hid two dozen colored eggs that we had decorated the day before all over the house for us to hunt for Easter morning. If there had been a pandemic then, my mother would have still hidden the eggs, because she knew even she, with her incredible talent for making BS credible, would not have been able to convince us that the Easter Bunny was “social distancing.”

How my parents loved family celebrations of holidays! I miss them so much, and days like this just makes not having them in our lives harder.

1. Can’t do this. I had been recommending the usually reliable website Ars Technica to my friends for updates on the virus so that they wouldn’t be battered hither and yon like skiffs made of paper on the ocean of hype and disinformation. I also relied on it myself. The site promised daily updates at 3 pm every day, along with a useful set of information, also updated as needed. Then, on April 6, the updates just stopped; no explanation, and nothing since. Unethical. If you promise a service for those in need of it, you can’t just stop it without warning or explanation. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You have created reliance and  dependency. If you can’t be sure that you will carry through on your commitment, then don’t make it.

I headed a small professional theater for 20 years at great personal sacrifice on that principle.

2. Welcome to my world...Since so many were forthcoming in their reactions to my quarrel with one ex-commenter, here’s another one. Unsolicited, I received a book about two weeks ago from an Ethics Alarms follower. It was by L.Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, and the topic was ethics. I was and am grateful, for all ideas about ethics are interesting to me, and most come in handy eventually. A few days ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from the same source, who told me that he was no longer following the blog. He then excoriated my for insulting him by posting, so soon after receiving the book, this post, which in item #3 I  made some uncomplimentary comments about Ron’s “church” (it’s a cult and probably a criminal enterprise), its current leader, and his whacked-out message to the flock about the pandemic, which he called “planetary bullbait.”

My critic thought it was mean and rude of me to respond to his kind gift by deriding his faith and his friend, the Church’s  Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige.

I immediately wrote back in part, Continue reading

On The Recent Steele Dossier Revelations: An Open Letter To An Un-Named Former Ethics Alarms Commenter, Written In Disappointment And Disgust

Dear You Know Who You Are,

As you remember, well over a year ago you staged a grandstanding, insulting exit from participation on this blog, declaring that I had “drunk the Kool-Aid.”  Your false claim was provoked because I had successfully navigated through  lies, calculated disinformation and lawbreaking—engineered by those within and without the U.S. government—to conclude that a coordinated effort had been and was underway to overthrow the elected President of the United States. At this point, the fact that your accusation was based on your own blindness and bias is not subject to rational denial or debate.

I knew that at the time, of course. I also felt, and feel, that for you to behave that way, in public, here, was a personal as well as a professional betrayal. We had, I thought, a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. We had exchanged details about the high and low points of our lives face to face.  We are in the same field and profession. I trusted you.

I have provided you some slack in my ultimate judgment on your character because I know that, as we say here often, bias makes us stupid, even the best of us. I have seen this particular bias make many people, even some smarter than you, as difficult as it may be for you to conceive of that, both stupid and  destructive, apparently without a glimmer of self-realization. I recognize that it the phenomenon is, at this point, indistinguishable from an illness, one triggered by emotion and group-think. Thus I am, up to a point, sympathetic, just as I am regarding so many of my Facebook friends who figuratively make asses of themselves every single day  because they are addicted to “likes” and peer approval. Some of them are even lawyers, but you know…lawyers. That is a professional group, along with historians, politicians, historians, scholars, psychiatrist, educators and, of course, journalists, that has broken its duty of trust with the public as it joined a dangerous and unconscionable effort to break our democracy. Continue reading

Ethics Comes In Like A Lion Warm-Up, 3/1/2020: Dead Ethics Alarms In New York, London, And Washington, D.C.

That’s my father’s favorite March!

Mine too.

For some reason there has been a breakdown of civility in the comments lately. This has happened from time to time; something in the air or too many social media rants or something; I don’t really care. You all know where the lines are; you cross them intentionally when you cross them. I appreciate the use of a vulgar word or harsh phrase as much as anyone; “asshole” is particularly tempting, because there is no non-vulgar term that quite captures the essence of its meaning. I also prefer to keep moderation light here, and for the most part, the select commenters who have passed my standards and answered the three questions at the bridge correctly usually make me proud, especially when I see what crawls onto other sites’ comment sections.  The would-be Ethics Alarms participants who send in entries like “Your a Trump-loving fuckface LOL!are all stacked up in the spam vault, and you would not believe how many of those I have to read to maintain the high level of participants here. I do not care to read that kind of gutter residue on the blog itself.

I just trashed a full comment by a regular commenter here, something I have not done in over ten years, and I’m not happy about it. Let’s keep that lapse the anomaly that it is.

1. From the “When ethics alarms don’t ring” file. Pop Quiz! If you were on the staff of a fashion show about to begin at what the New York Times calls “New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology”—which I have never heard of—and several of the models appeared backstage preparing to go out looking like this…

…what would you do?

The answer is that no matter how high or low you were on the metaphorical totem pole, you would be obligated to throw a fit, phone the brass, tell everyone in sight that they are out of their minds, and do everything short of calling in a bomb threat to halt what you know without a shadow of a doubt will result in a public relations disaster.

Incredibly, not a single person raised the obvious objection except an African-American model-who refused to don the giant lips and monkey ears. After the predictable uproar, two F.I.T. administrators were suspended, and  the school’s president, Dr. Joyce Brown (who is African-American) issued a public statement admitting that the Feb. 7 show, intended to demonstrate the work of recent graduates of the school’s M.F.A. program, “failed to recognize or anticipate the racist references and cultural insensitivities that were obvious to almost everybody else.”

Wait—if they were obvious to almost everybody else, why were they not obvious to anyone involved in the show? Continue reading

To Paraphrase George M. Cohan: “My Wife Thanks You, My Blog Thanks You, And I Thank You.”

To our surprise and delight, we just had delivered to our door, fresh from Conklyn’s Florists, a beautiful  mixed bouquet in a lovely glass vase. The card attached reads,

“Dear Mrs. Marshall, Get well absolutely as soon as possible.

[Other Bill] and the rest of the Ethics Alarms Commentariat

This was so kind and unexpected. None of my 420 Facebook friends (and relatives!) were so moved (then again, most of them hate me.) My wife was stunned, and is very grateful. (She would have applauded, but she only has one functioning arm.)

She says:  “This is very much appreciated. It cheers me up a little, something Jack has failed at completely. It is also a relief to be able to look at the beautiful flowers instead of my black-and blue face. And the vase is especially welcome, as a one armed flower arranger is like a one -armed paper-hanger, and Jack is no help at all.”

The ethics value here is generosity and kindness.

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everyone.