1. Jurassic World II. I can’t honestly call this ethics, but as I posted about the film’s bad reviews earlier, I feel obligated to close the loop. I saw the movie last night, and as I knew I would, enjoyed it thoroughly, beginning to end. To those who did, I feel a bit the way I do about people who don’t like baseball, Westerns, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the United States of America: I’m sorry for you. This one even has a moment that seems to be written for those who don’t to help explain those who do, when Bryce Dallas Howard talks about her sense of wonder the first time she saw a dinosaur. Of course, the original movie better expressed the same sense of wonder in the iconic scene where Sam Neill is struck dumb by his first sight of the brachiosaurus (and the lawyer’s only reaction is “We’re going to make a fortune with this place!”), but the Howard’s speech is no less an accurate description of how we dinosaur-lovers feel when we see these creatures on-screen.
No, it’s not the equal of the first “Jurassic World,” but it is excellent for the sequel, and better, I think, than either sequel to “Jurassic Park.” A vicious mutant raptor chasing a child through Victorian mansion is the stuff of nightmares, and a new concept; the dinosaur auction to a bunch of international bad-guys was a weird cross between “Goldfinger” and “Taken,” and several scenes, including the dinosaur stampede away from the erupting volcano, were worth seeing the film all by themselves. There were also more “Awww!” scenes than in all of the previous films combined: Chris Pratt’s home movies of bonding with the raptor babies; a mother triceratops and her adorable little one, and a haunting evocation of on of Charles Addams. best, but least funny, cartoons. I’ll leave it at that.
My biggest complaints would be that there was not enough of a role for the T-Rex, some of the deliberate homages to the earlier films were ham-handed and predictable, and that there was a fatal decision by one of the villains that made no sense to me at all. These flaws were more than compensated for by the star turn of the Pachycephalosaurus, a species that had only cameos in “The Lost World” and “Jurassic World,” a terrific fight between a new species in the series, a Carnotaurus, and a Styracosaurus, (one of my mother’s best ceramic models in my collection) and several laugh-out loud moments authored by the dinosaurs. The film’s ending also sets up a final installment that should conclude the series, unless a “Jurassic Planet” is in the cards.
There are some ethics issues in the film, as in all of the films: respect for life, cloning, betrayal, and accountability for unforeseeable consequences. Michael Crichton had no qualms in his original novel with solving the problem of living dinosaurs by nuking the whole park, but Spielberg’s ending was better.
2. An Ethics Quiz That Is Too Minor To Justify A Whole Post. Do you find anything wrong with Donald Trump Jr. parading his new girlfriend in front of cameras at the White House before he is even divorced from his current wife? Writes Ann Althouse, “He and his wife have 5 children. He should be more discreet. Which, I know, obviously doesn’t sound like a Trump concept.” Let’s have a poll!
2. Short version: “Grow up!” If the long-time theater friend who just defriended me on Facebook is reading (yes, I know who you are), this is a message for all the people who can’t tolerate, or remain friends with, anyone who challenges their anti-Trump fanaticism by pointing out–nicely!– that they sound like lunatics. I know you assume that you are in the warm, comforting womb of a left-wing echo-chamber, but friends don’t let friends write stupid, or shouldn’t. You, let me remind you, stated in black and white that Al Franken was the best hope to defeat Trump in 2020 (See how nice I was? I didn’t even challenge that nonsense!) until Republicans secretly engineered his destruction. I wrote in response that this was tin foil hat stuff, which it is; that implicitly accusing Kristen Gillibrand of being in cahoots with the GOP was bonkers, which is accurate, and that you should get help, which you should.
Your response was defriend me. Nice.
This has happened with about five theater friends, and in all cases over hysterical assertions that would be only acceptable from a 12-year-old. They, like you, are used to making ridiculous, hyper-partisan statements without being challenged, and regard a dissenting argument as a personal affront as well as the mark of Satan. You should not want to remain deluded, you should want to be called out when you write something idiotic, and you should not react with hostility to a friend who does so in good faith.
What I have learned about the resistance is that their logic, facts and debate skills are fatally flawed or absent. Their only defense against rebuttal is to censor it.
You really should not want to hang out with this crowd, my friend. Get well soon. I mean it.
And shame on you. I don’t deserve that.
3. Google is your friend, Mr. President. Yesterday, President Trump floated the idea of pardoning the late Muhammad Ali, who was famously convicted of draft-dodging during the Vietnam war. Ali, however, needs a pardon as much as I do. (Less, really, since he’s dead.) His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. There is nothing to pardon him for.
This kind of thing is an unforced error that justifiably undermines trust in the President. It’s just inexcusably sloppy—typical, I concede, but sloppy. I don’t blame Trump for not knowing that Ali’s conviction had been reversed: I had forgotten that myself. Making impulsive statements based on flawed information and snap decisions, however, suggests that the President might take impulsive actions based on misunderstandings as well.
Well, he does that, too.
More on pardons: I have seen several news sources, including the New York Times, contrast President Trump’s political “celebrity” pardons with President Obama’s pardons of less high profile Americans. Fake news. At this point in his administration, how many pardons do you think Obama had issued?
Facebook employees were horrified last week by over a leaked 2016 memo from Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth defending the social network’s aggressive expansion plans. Naturally, since the news media is in a Hate Facebook mode, ever since it was discovered that the social networking giants didn’t just let Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton acquire personal, data from its users: Republicans got some of the “big data” too, the Bosworth memo, nicknamed “The Ugly,” was more fodder to declare Mark Zuckerberg’s baby evil.
We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly.
We connect people.
That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.
So we connect more people
That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.
And still we connect people.
The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned. That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.
That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.
The natural state of the world is not connected. It is not unified. It is fragmented by borders, languages, and increasingly by different products. The best products don’t win. The ones everyone use win.
I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here. If you joined the company because it is doing great work, that’s why we get to do that great work. We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth. Nothing makes Facebook as valuable as having your friends on it, and no product decisions have gotten as many friends on as the ones made in growth. Not photo tagging. Not news feed. Not messenger. Nothing.
In almost all of our work, we have to answer hard questions about what we believe. We have to justify the metrics and make sure they aren’t losing out on a bigger picture. But connecting people. That’s our imperative. Because that’s what we do. We connect people.
Anyone who thinks this is a horrible or unethical sentiment doesn’t understand the fallacy of consequentialism, doesn’t comprehend moral luck, and doesn’t understand ethics or the concept of liberty. The section in the memo that has the Left’s new moralists suffering from the vapours is this one:
“So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”
That’s not “ugly.” That is a statement of reality, though admittedly one that certain political groups can’t understand, or choose not to accept. The value of tools that expand human power and experience is not diminished because they can be, and predictably will be, misused by some people, sometimes tragically. The nation was built on a basic understanding and embrace of that concept. Recently, a powerful movement has arisen challenging the assertion that personal; liberty is a universal good, on the grounds that liberty can be abused.. Here are some of the parallel and equivalent statements that this group currently challenges, often in angry and demonizing terms: Continue reading →
This is supposedly the big ethics story of the past ten days. There are ethics elements involved, but the main ethics stories are how the facts are being spun to try to make this yet another example of sinister doings by the Trump campaign, and how incredibly incompetent and naive social media users are.
In 2016, the Trump presidential campaign paid about $6 million to a firm called Cambridge Analytica to put together a voter database with profiles to allow targeted messaging. Global Science Research was hired by the firm, and reportedly paid Facebook to post a personality quiz and an app that 270,000 Facebook users ultimately consented to. The app allowed the firm to harvest personal likes, attitudes and preferences from 50 million Americans through access to the consenting users Facebook friends. Originally we were told that Cambridge Analytica had used all of that data to target voters during the 2016 presidential election, but that claim seems increasingly dubious. The Trump campaign ended its relationship with the firm well before the election.
Facebook claims it was lied to, and has now banned the firm, which could be fairly classified as misdirection. Facebook, as it has done before on its own, permitted its platform to be used to gather psychological profiles on its users without full disclosure regarding what the data would be used for. Now Facebook stock is plunging in the U.S., Facebook advertisers are leaving, some users are leaving too, and Congress wants hearings.
What’s going on here?
If, in fact, Facebook was deceived into allowing the quiz, that was unethical. Gathering data through such means is not illegal, however, and the ethics of Big Data gathering and analytics are murky at best. The legal profession, for example, has no clear regulation of it or guidance from bar associations.
Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested, and that could violate laws in Britain and some states.
The tenor of much of the news reporting and punditry, however, has been pure fear-mongering and hyperbole. That Cambridge Analytica was evil is presumed, I gather, from the fact that Steve Bannon was one of the founders. The New York Times in various articles described the data gathering as an invasion of “private information,” which is an inflammatory and misleading description, and described “misuse” of the information, as if such use isn’t routine in 21st Century commercial marketing. Here’s the Times, for example,
“The researcher hired by Cambridge Analytica, Alexandr Kogan, told Facebook and his app’s users that he was collecting information for academic purposes, not for a political data firm owned by a wealthy conservative. Facebook did nothing to verify how the information was being used.”
Ah…if it’s for a firm owned by a wealthy conservative, that makes the data gathering sinister, I guess.
It is unethical not to let people know why their preferences are being requested, and how they might be used, except that a strong argument could be raised that anyone who didn’t know they were creating a Big Data-base for Facebook is too naive to be allowed on the web without a leash. Facebook isn’t free: providing data is one of the ways users pay for it. There has certainly been plenty of publicity about this, and it’s not just Facebook. Google, Amazon, Twitter: this is what these companies do.
If it were possible to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg (it isn’t) one could conclude that the massive backlash he is receiving is contrived and unfair.
The episode is also being called a “breach,” as if there was hacking, or information was stolen.
In July of 2016, I recounted this jaw-droppingly idiotic story, and confidently pronounced it The Dumbest Ethics Story Ever Told, Less than two years later, is has a challenger, and it took the combined ethics cluelessness and general cluelessness of serial ethics miscreants Facebook and Snopes to create it,
Let’s meet the players, shall we? The Babylon Bee is not a hoax site of the sort that has often been designated as an Unethical Website here, but a satire site, and a pretty good one. The distinction isn’t hard to see. Hoax sites publish fake news stories that are specifically designed to fool people, and especially the news media, into thinking they are true. Their stories are often unlikely but not much more unlikely than the forehead-smacking things that Nancy Pelosi says or President Trump tweets regularly, and they are generally not especially clever or funny. Hoax sites also do not include the disclaimer that the site is not a legitimate news source where it is easily seen or read. Usually these are not even on the home page, or visible with every story. Satire sites, like the Bee, are skillful enough that nobody but morons–you know, like the people in charge of Facebook and Snopes, could possibly take their satire as fact. They also have a clear statement on the home page, like what the Bee includes in a black bar with white lettering on the bottom: The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.
Facebook you know, presumably. Perhaps you even know that, chagrined that it was the main platform through which Russians, bots and Lithuanian pranksters planted fake news during the 2016 campaign, has been taking various measures to combat “fake news,” though not the fake news that Facebook’s ideologically sympatico pals in the mainstream news media issue routinely. To help it identify the other kind of fake news, Facebook has allied with some well-known factcheckers, none of whom are completely trustworthy, and one less so than others, Snopes, which Ethics Alarms has exposed numerous times as biased, partisan, sloppy and untrustworthy. In my assessment, any organization, including Facebook but also news organizations, that relies upon or cites Snopes has condemned itself to the same category, which I will summarize for the sake of brevity as Unethical Hacks.
The Babylon Bee published a story with this headline: “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.”
ATLANTA, GA — In order to aid the news station in preparing stories for consumption, popular news media organization CNN purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to help its journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.
The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to “spin cycle,” and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.
One reporter was seen inserting the facts of a recent news story early Thursday morning.
“Okay, so we just slip in the location, the people involved, the facts of the story, and there we go,” he muttered as he fiddled with the buttons and dials on the machine. “Spin for five minutes on high, and we’ll have ourselves a news story.”
Now, just how stupid do you have to be not to comprehend that this is a joke? Ah, but those left-biased communications powers like CNN and Facebook stick together, so Facebook, because bias makes you stupid, and if you tended to be unethical and stupid anyway it can really make you stupid, thought this was a real effort to mislead facebook readers and pick up votes for Donald Trump or something, so it came down on the Bee like the Spanish Inquisition:
That’s right, Snopes checked whether CNN had actually purchased a giant washing machine! See?
It is similarly false that my uncle crossed a raccoon with a kangaroo and got a fur coat with pockets. This isn’t false. This is called “a joke.” Ah, but Snopes feels that the giant washing machine tale was jussst a little too believable, so it is sinister enough for Facebook to take action:
Although it should have been obvious that the Babylon Bee piece was just a spoof of the ongoing political brouhaha over alleged news media “bias” and “fake news,” some readers missed that aspect of the article and interpreted it literally. But the site’s footer gives away the Babylon Bee’s nature by describing it as “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire,” and the site has been responsible for a number of other (usually religious-themed) spoofs that have been mistaken for real news articles.
If you click on “spoofs” in this part of the Snopes article, you discover that these were among the Bee stories that Snopes felt needed definitive sleuthing.
Did Jim Bakker Say ‘Trump Was Merely Sharing the Gospel with That Porn Star’?
Is Playing Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving Now a Federal Crime?
Was Joel Osteen Recently Horrified To Learn About The Crucifixion?
Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston to Pass out Copies of His Book?
California Christians Must Register Bibles as Assault Weapons?
Verdict: Both Facebook and Snopes think that Facebook readers and the public generally are idiots, and neither has the common sense and discretion to discern when a gag is so ridiculous that it cannot reasonably be blamed on its creator if some mouth-breathing clod believes it.
This fiasco has a nice punchline: the Babylon Bee’s latest story was this:
Snopes Launches New Website To Fact-Check Snopes Fact Checks
U.S.—Popular fact-checking site Snopes.com rolled out a brand-new spinoff site designed to fact-check previously published fact checks on Snopes.com, reliable sources confirmed Tuesday.
The new site is called “Snopes Snopes,” and will comb through the original site’s articles in order to label them “True,” “False,” or “Clearly Biased,” assisting readers in discerning fact from fiction on the popular site which claims to debunk urban legends, hoax news stories, and satire.
“Our readers can now determine when a Snopes.com fact check is clearly erroneous or biased, with our help,” one Snopes fact-checker told reporters. “Rest assured that we will remain as neutral as possible when fact checking our own articles.”
“Up until now, the question everyone was asking was, ‘Who Snopes the Snopes?’ and now we have an answer,” she added.
At publishing time, Snopes editors had confirmed plans to launch a third site designed to fact-check its own fact checks of its own fact checks.
What do you think? Is this the new title-holder of The Dumbest Ethics Story Ever Told, or does the title still belong with the saga of Isabelle Lassiter, who called the police and filed a charge of sexual assault against a Japanese chef who jokingly squirted water on her using a plastic toy in the form of a little boy where the water was emitted from the “weiner” area, though, as the responding officer stated, “I observed the toy to have no penis and just a hole for the water to shoot out.” The plastic little boy was briefly taken into custody.
1 The definition of “courage” being used to describe some of the late-to-the-party revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s victims is more than a bit off. For example, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed, in which she talked about her own harassment by Weinstein, was hailed by Kerry Washington, Ellen DeGeneris and others, including singer Janelle Monae, who wrote, “My hero. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for using your voice.”
Bravery? Nyong’o’s piece could be fairly described as kicking a dead horse when he’s down. There is no danger to Nyong’o now in joining the throng accusing and exposing Weinstein, whose head is on a metaphorical pike in Hollywood. Indeed, claiming victimhood now acquires sympathy and declares that one is joining one’s peers in a virtuous quest. There is nothing wrong with her op-ed or the fact that she wrote it, but it isn’t brave. It would have been brave if she had written it while Weinstein had power…and was still using that power to intimidate and exploit actresses
2. A recent quiz in the New York Times threw some light, or maybe ice water, on the concept of “hate speech.” The quiz asked Times readers to judge whether a statement was hate speech, and contrasted the results with Facebook’s hate speech policy, and the kind of statement would be removed from the social media platform as violating its standards. Facebook defines hate speech as:
An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
Targeting a “protected category” of people, including one based on sex, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.
Here were the samples; Times readers were asked to vote yes or no to the question, “Would this statement meet Facebook’s criteria for hate speech?”
A. “Why do Indians always smell like curry?! They stink!”
B. “Poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus.”
C. “White men are assholes.”
D. “Keep ‘trans’ men out of girls bathrooms!”
E. “Female sports reporters need to be hit in the head with hockey pucks.”
F. I’ll never trust a Muslim immigrant… they’re all thieves and robbers.”
A. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 75% yes, 25% no.
B. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 92% yes, 8% no.
C. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 48% yes, 52% no.
D. Facebook: It depends on the context. Times readers: 57% yes, 43% no.
E. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 80% yes, 20% no.
F. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 91% yes, 9% no.
Ethics Alarms: the concept of hate speech is a dangerous, intentionally vague, manufactured category of speech pointing to restrictions of free expression. There is hateful speech, insulting speech, bigoted speech, biased speech, cruel speech, uncivil speech and rude speech, but all of it is still protected speech.
The tell is C. Times readers only voted that one statement wasn’t hate speech, the one that denigrated all white men. Of course they did. By Facebook standards, that vote is hate speech. I think.
Facebook can ban whatever speech it chooses, of course. The fact that it engages in this kind of vague, inconsistent, bias-laden censorship, however, tells us how much we should trust it: Not at all.
3. Speaking of bias, the Trump-haters in the news media—which is to say, the news media—were thrilled that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered, on the same day, statements that were taken as rebukes to President Trump without mentioning him by name. Both Presidents were treading in serious hypocrisy mine fields, and neither were called on it sufficiently. Bush spoke of “fading confidence” in free markets: Gee, who was President when insufficiently regulated capitalists crashed the world economy? Obama, even more cynically, pointed to social, racial and economic schisms after his eight years of aggravating and exploiting them. Both Bush and Obama—and for them, this is a despicable ethics foul—conflated illegal immigration with immigration, to the seal-flipper applause of the open-border crowd.
The significance of these dual attacks is less than it appears. Bothex-POTUSes are motivated by personal animus and as well as personal bias. President Trump is doing an excellent job, as promised, of erasing Obama’s few substantive achievements and policy initiatives from the record, and he has only been at it for less than a year. Are you a a successful President if the primary lasting effect of your administration is reversal of progress in racial reconciliation? Obama’s enmity is predictable, but hardly based on objective consideration. Bush’s attack is even less so. Candidate Trump’s attacks on President Bush’s brother were nasty and personal; the entire family has made no secret of the fact that it won’t forget, and hates the President’s guts/
The real ethics lesson, as well as a practical policy lesson is that being gratuitously mean to people isn’t just unethical, it is incompetent for a leader. This is one more area where the President shows a self-destructive lack of control and prudence as well as a flat learning curve. At a recent event, Paul Ryan, another target of Trump’s personal insults, mocked the President. John McCain has clearly decided that he will do whatever he can to undermine him until his last breath. Not only do the various public figures Trump needlessly insults and attacks occasionally have the opportunity to strike back in substantive ways, they also have supporters who will side with them even when those strikes are unfair or petty.
Deliberately making enemies is an example of life incompetence. It is so for a librarian or a short-order cook; it is even more so for a leader. It just makes it harder for you to do your job.
Why would you do that?
4. And now that Hugh Heffner is dead, Playboy is trying to make him roll over in his grave by announcing that it will have its first transgender Playmate.
Is this Ick, or ethics? Presumably, if the magazine has any integrity at all, Playboy chooses its Playmates according to their aesthetic qualities, not their medical history. These are women. Stipulated: French model Ines Rau is a woman, now. Why is her selection focusing on how she got to be one?
Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Rau wasn’t chosen because she is a beautiful woman, though I am not saying that she isn’t. She was chosen because she is transgender, and beautiful enough. This was affirmative action. Reports say she is honored. Why isn’t she insulted? If President Obama told Sonia Sotomayor that she was being nominated as a Supreme Court Justice not because she is especially qualified, but because she is Hispanic, would Sotomayor have been pleased?
Rau is being exploited, as Playboy treats the transgender social issue as a fad, to sell magazines and get publicity. Predictably, many of Playboy’s readers are objecting for the wrong reasons: they are bigots. Playboy’s social media response is telling: “Standing on the right side of history.” This is, as Ethics Alarms has pointed out before, a facile dodge and a rationalization. “We’re on the right side of history” is weak variation of the Number 1 rationalization on the list, “Everybody does it.” It means “Everybody’s going to do it, just you wait and see.”
Color me dubious. Heterosexual men who buy girlie magazines are going to find transgender women more beautiful and sexually arousing because they once were biologically male?
Colleen Campbell, a local Philadelphia television reporter, got herself fired for an obscenity-packed rant berating a cop outside a Philadelphia comedy club. What she didn’t know was that the whole, ugly thing was filmed. You know that rule that says “ethics is what you do when nobody’s looking except your embarrassed companion and a policeman who you have no respect for anyway because he’s just a cop? That’s the one Colleen whiffed on.
Campbell ae was kicked out of the club for “loud whispering” throughout the show. Once outside, she denied being disruptive to an officer who removed her. The officer replied that Campbell and her male friend needed to just leave the scene. The reporter replied, charmingly,
“Or what? Or what, motherfucker? Lick my asshole. How about that? Fucking piece of shit. That’s why nobody likes fucking police … idiots in this fucking town.”
Campbell, 28, didn’t know her act was caught on camera and posted to Facebook until after she received word from the station that she had been fired. Now she says…
“That’s not me or how I talk or act or anything at all…I don’t know what to do. I feel ruined and embarrassed for me and my family….I feel awful…That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised. I had to delete all my social media, because I’m getting threats….I wanna apologize to the officer. I don’t remember the whole altercation at all. I remember feeling attacked. I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”
The Kathy Griffin episode sparked several of those currently popular blog posts and web essays about how social media destroys people who make “one mistake” and if it could happen to them, it can happen to you. Ethics Alarms has had several of these posts in the past, always about regular citizens who had an ugly e-mail distributed to the universe by an angry girl friend, or a tasteless or misunderstood tweet to a friend gone viral. No question: these web lynchings are out of proportion to the offense. Continue reading →