Ethics Train Wreck Déjà Vu In Kenosha

Now THIS is “blood on their hands!

Three people were shot overnight in Kenosha, Wisconsin in  the third straight night of “mostly peaceful protests,” aka “rioting and looting” in response to a police shooting which may have been completely justified. Two of last night’s shooting victims died. Meanwhile, the mobs damaged and burned buildings and businesses around the city. Here’s a car lot torched by the “peaceful protesters”:

As we have seen with the George Floyd mob rule and before that, the riots in Atlanta (over the similarly ambiguous Wendy’s shooting), Ferguson (Mike Brown) and Baltimore (Freddie Gray), this damage to innocent people and their businesses is being “justified”—in truth, nothing could justify it—as a reaction to racism and police brutality when neither have been demonstrated by an investigation. But as we have seen, Facts Don’t Matter, and due process for cops doesn’t exist. Eager to disrupt society and seize power as supine politicians snivel, opportunistic revolutionaries along with some well-meaning but misguided activists, are savaging a community and causing far more damage than the original incident, based on supposition, bias, and raw emotion.

Other than the rioters themselves, these are the responsible individuals and organizations: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 6/28/2020: For The Defense….

Greetings from the Ethics Alarms bunker…

1. I’m current reflecting on a personal and professional ethics conflict. A colleague and long-time professional competitor—I would never call him a friend—has been ousted from his leadership position in the very successful organization he founded as a result of unproven allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It was a “believe all victims” situation, as well as what feels like a successful coordinated effort to “get” someone who had accumulated a lot of enemies, resentment and envy in a notoriously nasty industry once his power was waning.

On one hand, I feel like I should reach out to him and offer my guidance and support (as an ethicist and sexual harassment trainer, not a lawyer, and gratis, of course). On the other, I am pretty certain that he is guilty of at least some of what has been alleged, based on confidential accounts I have recently heard from reliable sources. Ethically, however, his ousting (it appears that he was given the option of “retiring”) lacked due process and fairness, and the organization was guided by public relations motives rather than legal or ethical ones.

Whose side should I be on?

2. Stop making me defend Facebook! As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the aggressive pandering mode of corporations right now is being exploited by would-be censors of political speech. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced updated election policies and stricter “hate speech” rules in response to employee protests and pressure from activists, whose transparent objective is to silence or constrict any political views antithetical progressive positions and goals. In a message last week, Zuckerberg  outlined plans to police disinformation relating to voting and elections, to flag certain content that risked triggering violence (I wonder what  that standard is like today?) and concluded,

Continue reading

Applying The Ethics Alarms 12 Question Protest Ethics Checklist To The George Floyd Freak-Out, And A Thirteenth Question

Of course, when a protest turns into violence, arson, rioting and looting, that protest has lost any claim to ethical legitimacy. Let’s (mostly)ignore that Woolly Mammoth in the room, however, to try to assess the George Floyd protests from as positive a perspective as possible.

Here’s the checklist:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

Outside of the locale where the incident took place, the protests were neither just nor necessary. They were only necessary in Minneapolis if there was a real chance that the police involved would not be held accountable. There was no reason to assume that in the brief time before the mobs gathered and the chants began.

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad, or narrow?

As in most such cases, the primary motive was and is incoherent. “Expressing outrage”  is by definition too broad to be productive. “Justice” does not mean what the protesters seem to think it does.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

No, if the objectives are a fair trial and due process under the criminal justice system, which it should be. If anything, the protests undermine those objectives.

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so? Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics, 5/30/2020: Burn, Baby, Burn Nostalgia

1. Bulletin for Gov. Walz: Derek Chauvin has civil rights too, you irresponsible fool. I have just watched Minnesota’s Governor repeatedly refer to George Floyd’s “murder.” An elected public official cannot and must not do that. If he wants to guarantee that a fair trial in the case becomes impossible, this is the way to do it. There has been no trial, and however horrible the video of Floyd’s  death may be, Chauvin and the other officers have the right to the presumption of innocence. Now a St. Paul’s mayor is at the podium calling for Chauvin to be held “accountable.” Well, he’s under arrest and will face trial, and for now, that’s about it.  All of this outrage porn and virtue-signaling now enables the rioters by pretending that there is anything productive to be done but to wait for the justice system to play out. Continue reading

What Is “Justice For George Floyd”?

There is no justice for George Floyd. The cries for such a result raise a straw man. Floyd is dead, and shouldn’t be dead. There is no remedy for that, and our system promises none. In the criminal justice system, the role of what would be the plaintiff in a civil proceeding is taken by the State, or “the People.” Justice is sought by society, to validate the system of the rule of law, and to ensure the safety and integrity of society and civilization.

Whether or not the officers responsible for George Floyd’s death—and absent the revelation of some  miraculous intervening cause that nobody suspected, like Floyd being bitten by an escaped  Black Mamba while the police officer was kneeling on his neck, there is no reasonable argument that the officers were not responsible for his death—are convicted and punished to anyone’s satisfaction is not the measure of “justice” in this case. The measure of justice is whether due process is followed, whether the officers are fairly tried and competently defended, whether their prosecution obeys the rules of evidence and follows the law in all other respects, whether a competent and fairly vetted jury evaluates the evidence presented and delivers a verdict consistent with that evidence, following a trial overseen by an impartial judge, who then declares a fair punishment in light of the verdict. That is all our system can achieve. Whether all citizens, or any citizens at all, like or approve of the final outcome is irrelevant, and has nothing whatsoever to do with “justice for George Floyd.” The system seeks justice in a broader sense. Continue reading

Mystery Solved! Now We Know What The ACLU Has Been Doing While State Governments Were infringing On Basic Civil Rights

It was rotting.

The non-profit organization that is supposedly dedicated to protecting the rights of all Americans against government incursions, as the Bill of Rights holds in both letter and spirit, made no effort to protect the citizens whose liberties have been arbitrarily manacled by power-mad governor and mayors, though the pandemic over-reach seemed to be a perfect battleground for the once non-partisan and idealistic group.

However, once Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spearheaded a much-needed revision of Title IX designed to protect the due process rights of male students accused of sexual misconduct on campus, the ACLU sprung into action—to try to block her.

It is hard for me to imagine how any objective reader could  peruse the revised federal guidelines on how sexual assault allegations should be handled on college and K-12 campuses and conclude that they are hostile to the Bill of Rights in any way. Nevertheless, the  federal lawsuit filed yesterday, with the backing of the ACLU, claims  the changes would “inflict significant harm” on victims and “dramatically undermine” the civil rights of accusers—you know, those women who must be believed when they want men to be punished.

The suit was filed on behalf of four advocacy groups for such women, including Know Your IX and Girls for Gender Equity. The objective is to block the Education Department’s fixes, made necessary by the Obama Education Department’s unethical “Dear Colleague” letter that threatened universities with the loss of funds and other sanctions if they didn’t make it easier for women to get male students kicked out of school in she said/he said disputes.  The  reform regulations will go into effect by August 14 unless they are rejected by the courts.

The rules championed by DeVos  bolster  the due process rights of those accused of sexual assault and harassment, allowing for live hearings and cross-examinations.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, is Orwellian. “This new federal effort to weaken Title IX makes it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations and needlessly comes amid a global pandemic.”

What does the pandemic have to do with anything? I guess it’s because the ACLU had a retreat or something and decided that the Wuhan virus  suspended civil liberties. Says Yahoo!, Continue reading

The Education Department Finally Crushes The Obama-Mandated Campus Sexual Assault Kangaroo Courts, And Joe Biden Is Deliberately Trying To Make My Head Explode

Shut up, Tara, I’m talking about how victims of sexual casualty are being silenced here!

This one was so clear that the New York Times decided to play it straight. Let’s see if the Biden campaign makes them change the headline: DeVos’s Rules Bolster Rights of Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct. It begins:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday issued final regulations on sexual misconduct in education, delivering colleges and schools firm new rules on how they must deal with one of the biggest issues that have roiled their campuses for decades.

The rules fulfill one of the Trump administration’s major policy goals for Title IX, the 48-year-old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding, bolstering due-process protections for accused students while relieving schools of some legal liabilities. But Ms. DeVos extended the reach of the law in other ways, establishing dating violence as a sexual misconduct category that must be addressed and mandating supportive measures for alleged victims of assault.

Title IX had become a flash point in recent years after sexual assault cases rocked high-profile universities like Stanford and Duke, and serial sex abuse by staff at the University of Southern California, Michigan State and Ohio State demonstrated how schools had failed to properly investigate complaints. But enforcement of the law has also grown contentious, especially since the Obama administration issued guidance documents in 2011 and 2014 that advised schools to ramp up investigations of misconduct and warned that their failure to do so could bring serious consequences. Critics said schools felt pressured to side with accusers without extending sufficient rights to the accused. And dozens of students have won court cases against their colleges for violating their rights under the Obama-era rules…

The new regulations adopt the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive,” and they require colleges to hold live hearings during which accusers and accused can be cross-examined to challenge their credibility. The rules also limit the complaints that schools are obligated to investigate to only those filed through a formal process and brought to the attention of officials with the authority to take corrective action, not other authority figures like residential advisers.

Exactly. Ethics Alarms has covered many of these episodes, and pointed out the anti-due process aspects of the Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter when it was issued. That sop to the militant feminist and anti-male wing of the Democratic Party threatened schools with adverse consequences if those accused of sexual harassment and assault were not presumed guilty, with their reputations and education at risk. The burden of proof was shifted on most campuses, with the accused, rather than the accuser, having the burden of proof. Continue reading

Observations On The Times Review Of “Apropos Of Nothing”

Woody Allen in “Manhattan” with a 16-year-old Mariel Hemingway (playing a 17-year-old)

To be clear, I haven’t read Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” and I won’t. I found myself unable to endure anything related to Allen after he married his own quasi-daughter following a sexual affair with her while they were both living with Mia Farrow, Allen as her supposed lover and domestic partner, Sun-Yi Previn as her adopted child. While I maintain that the works of artists should be kept separate from the character flaws and misdeeds of their creators, that’s an intellectual and ethical position, not an emotional and gastrointestinal one. The latter are non-ethical considerations, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore them.

If I were a professional book reviewer, however, I would be forced to put my revulsion aside, or refuse the assignment of rendering a verdict on “Apropos of Nothing.” It is undeniable that the New York Times book reviewer, Dwight Garner, couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. To be fair, the Times no longer enforces the core journalism ethics principle that journalists shouldn’t allow personal biases to infect their reporting, but that is an explanation, not a defense. Some observations: Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Woody Allen! And Another Victory For The Illiberal Mob…

This blog certainly forces me to defend some  unsavory characters.

Woody Allen is one among the small group of artists who I find so personally repellent that I can’t enjoy their work even while recognizing and appreciating its excellence. That does not mean, however, thatAllen’s work is not important nor that his life and career lack cultural significance. As I wrote here,

“I found myself unable to enjoy any of Allen’s films after he cheated on his de facto wife with his de facto daughter. I also don’t believe in enriching, even indirectly, horrible people in their professional endeavors if I can conveniently avoid it.”

That, however, is a personal choice that I would never impose on others, nor on the arbiters and trustees of culture, as it would be unethical to do so. Thus I wrote, just a few days ago, of Ronin Farrow’s demand that his publishers refuse to hand Allen’s memoirs because he believes his sister’s account that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child,

“I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author.”

Now we learn that the publishers have been intimidated into dropping Allen’s book after all:

Hachette Book Group on Friday dropped its plans to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography and said it would return all rights to the author, a day after its employees protested its deal with the filmmaker“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said in a statement. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

But she added that Hachette executives had discussed the matter with employees and, “after listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”

There are those pesky rationalizations again! Oh, it’s a hard decision, so that excuses it from being a bad decision. This is 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision” again, which I reviewed yesterday. Next, we get this nauseating sequence, which perfectly embodies 64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”

The statement says that “We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard,’ and follows it up by saying that it will not publish this “challenging book” and thus this different voice and conflicting point of view  will not be heard. Seldom does such complete hypocrisy define itself in the span of so few sentences.

The “difficult” decision that contradicts the company’s stated values results from nothing better than cowardly capitulating to a mob carrying out the goals of cancel culture. In this case, those goals include infringing on free speech and the public’s right to know, if they want to know. Our democratic ideals and the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights have no chance of surviving if those who own and run companies like Hachette emulate the spineless administrators of educational institutions and dissolve into pools of passive submission every time holding to those ideals and principles threatens to entail a risk of sacrifice or adverse consequences. Continue reading

Poll: “Unafraid and Unashamed”

Artist Julian Raven (that’s him on the right above) wants to force the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery to include his “Unafraid and Unashamed,” which you can see above. On the artist’s website  can be found links to his Supreme Court petition and  other documents related to his Free Speech suit “to force the gallery to add a portrait of President Trump to its collection of images of people of remarkable character and achievement.” Raven notes that the gallery has displayed artwork from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign since 2009, and in his 39-page filing with SCOTUS, argues that gallery’s refusal to hang his portrait is based on an anti-Trump bias.

Raven’s crusade has been treated as an oddball saga and a joke, as in a  profile in the Washingtonian Magazine.

Some conservative writers are taking his cause seriously, however. Here’s Lawrence Jarvik:

Raven’s challenge dramatizes how national cultural institutions established to serve all the American people, such as the Smithsonian, have been hijacked by dangerously partisan factions which seek to exclude, marginalize and erase  “Others.”

As his brief demonstrates, the Smithsonian had accepted campaign posters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in addition to huge oversized paintings of Bill Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama. It had a special exhibition for the Obama Inauguration, and maintains a sort of shrine to the Obamas to this day. 

Raven’s case likewise provides evidence that decision-making at the Smithsonian is arbitrary and unfair. He was never provided a written decision on his application. Instead, he received only a phone call from the director, which from his account sounded conclusory, partisan, and unfair.

As he points out, as an American citizen—Raven is entitled to due process. Yet, to this date, he has no idea as to how his work was evaluated, nor what rubric was applied to his submission…versus that used for pictures of Obamas or Clintons.

Although “Unafraid and Unashamed” may not be the most beautiful portrait ever painted, Raven’s legal brief makes clear that the official criterion for display by the National Portrait Gallery is historical significance. No reasonable person could deny that Donald Trump’s election in 2016 had historical significance.

That’s true. It is also likely, certain, even, that the selection criteria used at the Smithsonian, as in every other art museum, is subjective and thus certain to be biased in one respect or another. Since the question involves pro-Trump art, and it would be hard to find an artist or significant arbiter of the arts in Washington, D.C. or anywhere else who doesn’t loathe President Trump, the issue of bias is not an insignificant one. Continue reading