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


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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“How Is Rewarding Unethical Behavior Ethical?”

Every now and then a comment on Ethics Alarms that I have not answered personally sticks in my brain like a musical earworm, literally keeping me awake at night. This was one of those times. That proclivity is one reason I have made over 50,000 comments on my own blog among the 300,000 here in the decade Ethics Alarms has been in existence. The vast majority of bloggers don’t do that; most don’t comment at all. I do it because, in addition to the biological need for sleep, I designed this forum to be a colloquy and an ongoing ethics seminar as much as a platform for my own analysis.

This time, the comment that stuck in my brain like “Thank-You Girl,” the Beatles’ all-time earworm, began,

“How is rewarding unethical behavior ethical?”

The comment came as a response to yesterday’s post explaining why it would be best for all concerned  if President Trump would stop claiming that the election was “stolen” or “rigged” (though it was both) and concede with graciousness and honor now that the chances of his prevailing in the Electoral College are vanishingly small.

I could answer that question in two sentences, or with a book. I will try mightily to come much closer to the former than the latter.

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Week Before The Big Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/26/2020: Most Of All, “Thank-You!”

Thank you

The big day, of course, is October 27. That is the 26th anniversary of my son’s birth, which occurred in a genuine hell hole (I’ve been there) in Russia. For reasons Watson and Crick could explain, Grant Viktor Bowen Marshall is very different from his father in many fascinating ways: he chooses his words carefully and keeps his own counsel; he is confident in his relationships with the opposite sex; he has the magic touch with all things technical and mechanical, including automobiles and computers; he couldn’t care less about such things as politics, dinosaurs, old movies, magic and live theater. But in ways B.F. Skinner would understand, maybe he’s not so different after all in the ways that matter: Grant has always refused to be influenced by the crowd and peer groups; he is not a follower; he seeks out knowledge and information, is a risk taker, and shares some of my stranger tastes and sources of amusement.

Best of all, my son is kind, thoughtful, honest and courageous, and Grace and I could not be prouder of him. He has weathered far more challenges in the first quarter of his life than either of his parents had to, and come out of those tests a better and stronger human being who, I am certain, will be equal to anything life throws at him from here on.

October 27 is also the anniversary of the day the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 after 86 years of frustration. At the time, I told Grant that he had the Sox to thank for the fact that I would never forget his birthday, unlike, for example, those of his grandparents and mother. That landmark still means a great deal to me, even in a season where, for the first time in more than 50 years, I will not watch a single World Series game, and because of the sport’s unconscionable groveling to Black Lives Matter, my relationship with the Boston baseball team is in serious question.

Now on to the real topic of this post..

1. Thank you, everybody. Over the weekend, I received in the mail a check for over 2100 dollars, the result of the generosity and appreciation demonstrated by 47 Ethics Alarms followers. (One additional reader sent a gift directly.) The unexpected bounty was the result of a GoFundMe appeal by prolific commenter Steve Witherspoon, prompted by this whiny post written during a low point earlier in the month. I swear that it was not calculated to prompt anything but Ethics Alarms’ readers’ understanding of my state of mind, which is relevant to what topics I choose and often my analysis of them.

I haven’t felt this humble—as you might guess, humility is not one of my hallmarks—since my father helped us out with a mortgage payment during a professional crunch, telling me at the time that he admired my decision to be a self-employed ethicist rather choosing other more lucrative and secure options available to me, and that he wished that he had been able to chose a pursuit that he felt mattered for reasons other than feeding the family and paying the bills.

As it happens, your gift, like Dad’s, comes at a propitious time in the journey of ProEthics, for the lockdown has been hard on the ethics business. The gesture is most appreciated, however, as what Steve intended it to be, which was as a demonstration by readers that what I’m trying to do here does have meaning and value, something that I questioned in the referenced post.

Thanks. I needed that.

I promise to continue to strive to raise questions and prompt discussions here on the wide range of ethical issues facing us all, as well as the others that I just find interesting, and hope you will too. And I want to say that I am grateful and thankful to all Ethics Alarms readers, not just those who responded to Steve’s kind appeal.

I ended that October 4 post by writing,

“My whole life’s goal has been to try to stimulate people  and to build things that have a valuable purpose. Right now writing the blog just feels like sitting around and complaining, and little else. That makes me feel impotent, petty, and old.”

Because of Steve and the rest of you, I do not feel that way today.

(Well, maybe just old.)

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/8/20: In Which I Am At A Loss For Words


1 As predicted, the police shooting of a black teenager with a semi-automatic weapon resulted in a new round of riots, this time in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin because the officer involved was not indicted for 1) being a police officer, and  2) having to shoot a an African American who 3) resisted arrest. Of course.

Riots are unethical. Demonstrating against responsible and fact-based law-enforcement decisions whether to prosecute is unethical. Creating a culture in which it is presumed that enforcing the law against a particular race is racist is unethical. This is all what one political party, just one of two, is supporting, rather than clearly condemning. That too is unethical.

And supporting such a party is unethical, as well is ignorant.

While I was typing this, an ad, not “approved by Donald Trump,” featured a woman being terrorized in her car by a mob, and noted that the Biden-Harris ticket would try to disarm citizens while “defunding the police.” “Vote Against Biden-Harris to keep safe” the ad concluded.

I think that’s entirely fair.

2. I did not watch the Pence-Harris debate, and I may not even review the video or the transcript. There should be nothing left to learn about Harris at this point, after watching her giggling, incompetent performances in the Democratic candidates’ debates. I assume she made numerous counter-factual assertions, and I assume the best she could do was to level pre-scripted ad hominem attacks on the President to pander to the Trump Deranged Democratic base. I assume no one asked her about the apparent hypocrisy of her enthusiastic alliance with a serial sexual harasser and the object of a rape accusation when she savaged a nominated Supreme Court Justice based on far less. I assume no one will ask how she defends the open decision to base the critical choice of who stands “a heartbeat from the Presidency” on nothing, literally nothing, but skin color and gender, resulting in Harris  being chosen despite no relevant experience and clear rejection by voters in the primaries. And I assume the Vice-President was stolid, professional and boring, as he always is, thus sparking comparisons with the President’s uncivil, un-Presidential but wholly Trump-like performance in the first Presidential debate.

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Musings On The State Of Mind Of Your Friendly Neighborhood Ethicist


There are three reasons I just sat down to try to write the first Ethics Warm-Up in three days. The first is that the new, mandatory WordPress format makes it too difficult to create a post on my laptop, so I have to retreat to my office, a larger screen and my more responsive PC to compose, requiring me to abandon my wife and my dog. The second is, frankly, that writing posts just isn’t fun when I have to struggle with software that is actively impeding me.

The third is that I am increasingly feeling as if the fate of the United States of America rests on its citizens being responsible, becoming informed and realizing what awaits them and the nation if the Democrats seize power—and I do mean seize—and I feel as if what I do here is the equivalent of pointing out dolphins, flying fish and sunsets from the decks of the Titanic.

Oh, all right: I’m also boycotting baseball, which has been one of my greatest sources of joy and inspiration since childhood.

Almost nobody I know well or have met face to face reads Ethics Alarms. My family doesn’t, except for Grace. My son doesn’t; most of my friends don’t: I’m only aware of a couple. I did have a nice encounter this week when a neighbor I had never met called out my name, near my home: he recognized me from the photo on the blog and Spuds, whom I was walking at the time.

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