Tag Archives: democracy

Regarding Twitter, Free Expression, Alex Jones, Social Media Censorship, And “Fake News”

zipper on mouth

The journalism ethics site Poynter begins a story today , “Over the past couple of years, Twitter has done the bare minimum to fight fake news, avoiding the kind of negative press that has plagued Facebook in the process.”

Talk about a bad start. No social media platform is qualified to “fight fake news” except to allow participants to make their own cases regarding what is fake news and what isn’t. They can and do indulge in incompetent, biased and often partisan censorship, covering their tracks by employing “factcheckers” that themselves can’t be trusted not to indulge their biases and political agendas, of course. That’s what Facebook has been doing, and, proving that there is justice in the universe, suffering for it.

Twitter hasn’t been censoring what it calls fake news; it’s just been using double standards to ban conservatives for “hate speech” when parallel leftist rhetoric gets past the gate-keepers. Federalist writer Elizabeth Kantor, for example, was kicked off twitter for this tweet in tongue-in-cheek support for the new racist New York Times editor:

“@sarahjeong This whitey is cheering you on as you fight off the Twitter mob. Down with deplatforming! Plus, it’s clarifying abt. what kind of paper the NYT wants to be . . .”

Twitter told her had engaged in “hateful conduct” that violates Twitter’s terms of service: “Violating our rules against hateful conduct.You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin…”

Jeong, however, who had started the hashtag “#CancelWhitePeople” as well as many other anti-white, anti-male Twitter content, remains a valued Twitter user.

Twitter not only is partisan and biased, it also has no integrity. What upset Poynter is that Twitter didn’t join Apple, Facebook and others in their Sunday Night Purge of right-wing wacko Alex Jones. The fact that it banned Kantor for one innocuous political tweet and not her target for dozens of racist ones doesn’t seem to bother Poynter’s unethical ethicists, just that it hasn’t joined the effort to silence Jones online.  Twitter, its says, is failing its duty to combat “misinformation.”

Here was the message from the Twitter CEO, communicated, naturally, in a series of tweets:

We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified. Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories. If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.

In an earlier tweet from another Twitter account, Twitter stated,

“As we have stated publicly, we strongly believe Twitter should not be the arbiter of truth nor do we have scalable solutions to determine and action what’s true or false.”

Bingo. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Apple, Or “Stop Making Me Defend Alex Jones!”

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

—-A spokesperson for Apple last week, following confirmation that it had removed five out of six podcasts by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,  including “The Alex Jones Show” and some of his InfoWars audio streams. 

This is a terrifying statement…almost as terrifying as the fact that so many Americans won’t understand why it’s terrifying. Unless one does not understand the First Amendment and why its principles are the beating heart of American democracy, or unless you are an increasingly typical 21st Century progressive, who feels that the Left should have the power to decide what kind of speech is tolerable, Apple is telling us that it is going to use its immense power and influence over the distribution of ideas to suit its preferences regarding what people should see, hear, and think. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Black Swan Books Owner Nick Cooke

The “A Nation of Assholes” scenario is in full sway when an entire side of the ideological divide attacks the owner of a public accommodation for insisting that his customers are not harassed and abused. That is a fair description of the fall-out from the recent episode at Richmond’s Black Swan Books, where the owner behaved like the owner of the Red Hen restaurant should have behaved: like an American, like a supporter of diversity of view, like a believer in our political system, like a foe of bias and discrimination.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books on West Main Street in the Fan District, said Bannon was in the bookstore Saturday afternoon and that a woman confronted him, calling him a “piece of trash.” Cooke said he called 911 and that the woman left as he made the call.

“Steve Bannon was simply standing, looking at books, minding his own business. I asked her to leave, and she wouldn’t. And I said, ‘I’m going to call the police if you don’t,’ and I went to call the police and she left,” Cooke said. “And that’s the end of the story.”

The Richmond Police Department confirmed a call was made around 3:15 p.m. Saturday for a report of someone yelling at a political figure in the bookstore and that the call was canceled before any officers responded.

“We are a bookshop. Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening,” Cooke said.

But it was not the end of the story, because so many Democrats and progressives have taken a dangerous turn to totalitarianism and the tactics of  Lenin and the Nazi Party, seeking to harass and abuse those with whom they disagree. The antifa is no longer on the far fringes of the Left: it is creeping toward the center, or perhaps the better metaphor is that the Left is creeping toward it, and I do mean creep. These are awful people, as I’ve said before. Not because of their beliefs, but because of their conduct. Unable to produce the political dominance that they thought had been assured with the election of Barack Obama, frustrated progressives are increasingly abandoning the values and processes of a constitutional democracy to resort to political and social warfare. The attempt to exclude conservatives and Republicans from the basic rights of citizenship, such as being able to walk down a street, shop, or have dinner without being accosted and hectored, represents an escalation, and is signature significance for an ideological movement that has forsworn ethics for the pursuit of power.

( And yes, I personally think Steve Bannon is also an awful person. As is President Trump. As are Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Joy Reid, Michael Cohen, Charles M. Blow, Barry Bonds, Stephen Colbert, Howard Stern, Joe Arpaio, Omarosa, Anthony Scaramucci, Harry Reid, Scott Pruitt, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. There are many millions of arguably awful people, all well short of being criminals, in this country, and every one of them has the right to live his or her life unmolested when they are not being overtly awful. Any political party that takes the position that this statement is not true should be disqualified from holding power.)

Speaking of awful people, Philippe Reines, a top aide in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, tweeted out the contact information for the bookstore on Sunday afternoon, in effect doxxing her and siccing the social media mob and the Maxine Waters Brigade on the book store and its owner. Typical of the illogic employed by the self-righteous harassers was this tweet:

Woman: Steve Bannon, you’re a piece of trash!

Bookstore Owner: We are a bookstore! We tolerate different ideas!

Also Bookstore Owner: *calls police on woman to have her removed because she expressed her different ideas*

No, you lying moron, the owner called the police because the woman was harassing his customers.  Presumably Nick would have called the police on Bannon if the former Trump aide had been harassing her.

Black Swan Books  is the anti-Old Town Sport&Health Club, which I wrote about as an Ethics Dunce here.

In that 2017 fiasco, a Georgetown professor named Fair, ironically enough, harassed white nationalist Richard Spencer while he was quietly working out, no Heil! gestures or anything, and the club revoked his membership.

(Remember: awful people. Do NOT let them get power.)

I wrote—and I’m sorry for such a long self-quote, but I think I wrote it well the first time:

I’m so weary of reading about restaurants that give discounts to diners who pray, and bar owners who declare that no Democrats are welcome and Maine propane dealers who tell their customers that they can freeze to death if they voted for Donald Trump. I’m tired of pointing out what should be obvious to everyone in a pluralistic society, but suddenly isn’t, particularly, it seems, to proto-totalitarians like the Georgetown professor, who is doubtless hard at work indoctrinating her young charges into believing that those with non-conforming views should have their rights taken away for the greater good. I detest Spencer’s views, but I consider Fair and her kind the far greater threat to the nation, in part because there are so many of them.

Why? She is a greater threat because her version of society doesn’t work, and soon devolves into armed camps. As I wrote in a post called, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there,

I know, I know: Neo-Nazis are really bad. Yet I don’t want my freedom to participate in life and society to be limited by someone else’s judgments about my beliefs or politics. Listen to the rhetoric from angry Clinton supporters since the election. If you want to enforce immigration laws, you hate Latinos. If you think the unborn deserve rights, you are a misogynist. If you voted for Trump, you are a blight on humanity. Thanks to the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters and the tacit approval of some well-placed politicians, police officers have been refused service in various establishments… The argument that this group or that group is special and doesn’t deserve the same courtesy and service as other groups is simply a rationalization born of bias, like… the position that the Vice President Elect, alone among all the millions of audience members who are allowed to attend theatrical performances as part of the community, ought to be subjected to personal harassment based on his political beliefs.

If we, as a culture,  approve of this abusive treatment of the alt-right, then we are approving similar treatment when the group being discriminated against is the Democratic Party, the ACLU, a mosque, the Shriners, the Boy Scouts, NARAL, or a newspaper editorial board. Rights mean nothing if the most unpopular, most controversial, most offensive individuals and organizations cannot exercise them….This is a slippery slope that leads right to the end of the principles and liberties that make the United States an ethical nation, and perhaps a nation at all.

Well, since I wrote that, self-righteous, proto-totalitarian progressives and “the resistance” have been greasing that slippery slope.

The Richmond bookstore owner’s effort isn’t enough by itself, but at least he demonstrated how to throw sand on it.

 

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/26/2018: Our Amazing, Evolving, Contentious Culture

Good Morning!

1. Outrageous Self-Promotion Dept.: Just in case you live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., AND are interested in the cultural impact of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan in the U.S., AND would like to see me (and three long-time friends and colleagues who will periodically join me in performing some selections from the brilliant satirical operettas) discuss this rich and wide-ranging topic (Politics! Satire! Movie scores! Broadway musicals!) over a three-hour session that will fly like the wind, all it will take is a mere 50 dollars (just 35, if you are a Smithsonian Associates member) and your attendance. I’d love to see you. The program is Gilbert and Sullivan in the 21st Century, this Saturday, June 30, at 9:30 a.m. Here are the details.

2. Speaking of culture…If you want to feel better about the state of U.S. culture, I recommend watch a Beach Party movie. I just saw the first one all the way to the end for the first time—to realize that it was easily the best of its line (there were six—SIX!!!—more) is mind-boggling all by itself—and found it immediately uplifting. The 1963 William Asher-directed relic looks like it’s from some particularly demented parallel universe, depicting a weird place where 30-year-olds pretend to be  loitering teenagers who do nothing all day but gyrate to frenetic versions of the Twist, listen to awful surf music that makes the Jan and Dean sound like Brahms in comparison, do some surfing themselves (but just the males), and interact with B-list comics like Morey Amsterdam and Harvey Lembeck. The songs and their hackneyed lyrics make you yearn for the nuanced hip-hop musings of Kanye West; the comedy makes “Big Bang Theory” seem like Oscar Wilde, and to speculate on what kind of populace would actually enjoy such badly-conceived and sloppily-executed crap is to risk madness. If this was America in 1963, a) Good riddance, b) How did we survive? and c) No wonder the Soviet Union thought they were going to win!

No blacks are to be seen; indeed no skin color of any shade but glistening white is visible anywhere—didn’t these people even tan? Here’s a typically clueless exchange to ponder:  Annette Funicello: “The professor got his robe from the chief of the Tokyo Fire Department!” Random 30-year-old teenage beach bum: “Great! I’ll call him if my rickshaw catches fire!”  [laughter]. In the hilarious motorcycle gang, where all of the actors appear to be at least 45, the male members’ leather jackets say “Rats” on the back, and their female cohorts’ jackets say “Mice.” None of the”girls” have any function in the film, and no higher purpose, than to moon after the guys and gyrate in their faces.  Accepted conduct is for every male youth to gawk, pant, and emit some sound the equivalent of a wolf whistle every time a shapely female passes. The romantic lead (of sorts), teen idol Frankie Avalon, trying to make virginal, had-to-get Annette jealous, grabs a generic Scandinavian waitress and just starts kissing her. It’s like a magnet. Just kisses her He doesn’t  even wait. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Then he tells her he loves her so she’ll make out with him until Annette loosens up. This is the hero, remember.

They should show this film in every junior high school American History class. I’m very serious about this.

3. An abject lesson in how the news media uses language to manipulate public perception: Virtually every news report about the Trump administration’s actions at the Mexican border described them, and are still describing them, in headlines as “family separation.” The cumulative effect of this is to make casual, not fully-engaged readers and listeners think that family separation is the objective of the policy. The objective of the policy is to enforce current immigration laws while obeying other legal requirements, such as the one that forbids children from remaining with federally  detained parents.  This is, under the Ethics Alarms definition, fake news: deliberately deceitful reporting that conveys a false impression. The equivalent would be characterizing the imprisonment of African American men convicted of felonies as “the Trump policy of making black families into single-parent households.” Continue reading

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BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood And Broadway Declare War On The Presidency, Elections, Democracy, Decency And Civility. NOW What?

“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.

Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.

I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.

What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.

Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling  of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,

“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”

Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of  conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading

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Dick Tuck, Ethics Corrupter

Dick Tuck, accepting an award from Democrats in 1973.

“Prankster-at-large,’ the New York Times pleasant obituary calls Dick Tuck, who died this week at the age of  94. He “bedeviled” Barry M. Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon and other Republicans, we are told. He was a “king gremlin of political shenanigans.” It all sounds so cute, so harmless.

This is inexcusable spin. Dick Tuck is the grandfather of such dirty campaign tricks as the infamous “Canuck” letter in 1972, and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016. He was an ethics corrupter, who “inspired” Richard Nixon to launch his own dirty tricks operation, a pioneer of political sabotage who helped make such unethical tactics as false flag operations and internet rumor-mongering the plague they are today. Nice job, Dick!

Writes the Times, admiringly… Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)

“In 2016, nearly three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump – but Trump took the presidency. That’s not exactly the sign of a healthy democracy. Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins.”

—-Senator Elizabeth Warren, dumbing down democracy to a partisan audience at the Center for American Progress ‘Ideas Conference’ 

No U.S. election proved the foresight of the Founders and their Electoral College innovation more clearly than the 2016 edition. A single state, California, culturally estranged from the majority of the nation in dramatic, perplexing, even bizarre ways, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton by more than 4 million votes. This single, virtually one-party state, under a pure popular vote system, would have overcome the will of the rest of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, which narrowly favored Republican Donald Trump by more than a million votes. This was exactly the kind of scenario the Electoral College was devised to avoid—indeed, devised in order to have a country at all. The smaller states, then as now culturally distinct from the more populous states and fearing a permanent fate of being dictated to by their larger cousins, insisted on such devices as the U.S. Senate, where all states had equal power, and the Electoral College, which prevented an,overwhelming mob of single-minded voters in one region dominating the choice of a national leader in perpetuity.

There are other benefits of the device as well. The Electoral College tends to handicap single issue candidates and radical ones. It requires that contenders for national leadership appeal to all regions, or at least not to just a powerful few. Narrow issue, increasingly extreme parties as Warren’s Democrats have become are definitely penalized by the Founders’ system, which is why contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination are already taking aim at it. What the Electoral College should be doing is to force Democrats to become more inclusive, less divisive, and rational. Instead, they are already working to de-legitimatize the results of the next election, should it not go their way. Continue reading

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