Fad Ethics, 2022

Fads occur when the culture embraces a concept for emotional, selfish, foolish or otherwise irrational reasons. Usually they are harmless; sometimes they are not. This meme crystalized the reality of a current fad, an especially destructive one being advanced in pursuit of a social and political agenda, so deftly that Ethics Alarms is momentarily suspending its opposition to memes.


Pointer: Powerline

Coulrophobia Ethics: The Irresponsible Clown Dad

There has been an outbreak of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) for some reason, heightened by pranksters and web satirists taking advantage of one of our periodic societal freakouts as Halloween approaches:

  • Hundreds of students at Penn State set out to hunt clowns this week after rumors that clowns were loose on campus, chanting”Fuck the clowns!”
  • A dorm was evacuated at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, after the “Clown Watch” Twitter feed reported a sighting of a scary clown with a rifle. It was a hoax. 
  • In Portland, Oregon, police arrested David Dahlman, 55, for wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves and threatening middle schoolers. This clown charged an assistant principal who intervened.
  • A 13-year-old girl was arrested in Hampton, Virginia., for trying to get a person posing as a clown online to kill one of her teachers. 
  • A 14-year-old boy in Houston was charged with making terrorist threats toward his school using an online clown image.
  • Also this week, several hundred University of Connecticut students  gathered in a cemetery near midnight, ready to do battle with the evil clowns they had heard were hiding among the headstones. Police had to respond, and were not amused.
  • Police in  Lancaster, California warned that men wearing “ugly-looking clown masks” were using kitchen knives to frighten people and then videotaping their reactions.
  • Menacing clowns sightings were also reported in Modesto,  prompting police there to issue a warning to residents saying, “If you see anything or anyone suspicious, including individuals dressed as clowns, to avoid contact and report the circumstances to us immediately.”

Fear of clowns has been a cultural joke for decades. “Seinfeld” had whole storylines based on Kramer’s coulrophobia.Why is this happening now? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, though CNN came up with five equally unsatisfying theories. Why? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why do fools fall in love? Why isn’t Hillary ahead by 50 points?

As long as the fad and its manifestations are in good fun and don’t endanger anyone, there’s nothing to be concerned about, though Stephen King felt compelled to try to calm the madness:

king-tweet(This is rich coming from King, who created the creepiest clown in literature as the villain of his novel “It.”)

Unfortunately, there are always those whose ethics alarms don’t ring. In Auburn, Massachusetts,  a father who followed his child’s school bus from the bus stop, wearing a scary clown mask. The middle school students in the bus were reportedly terrified. He was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. Continue reading

Pokémon Go Ethics: Beware The Terms Of Service Agreement!


I had a hard time finding anything unethical about Pokémon Go, the smartphone GPS scavenger hunt game that sends players all over the landscape to find and trap those adorable Japanese monsters that caused a trading card craze and more a decade ago. (I assume that anything that seems really dumb is likely to have ethics problems. You’d be amazed how often I’m right.) It seems benign. The game can be good exercise, it’s engaging for people who have no more productive avocation, and best of all, it gives American something to obsess about not named Bill or Hillary. There are some troubling signs: administrators at the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery felt that they needed to ask visitors not to play the game while contemplating the murder of six million Jews and the fallen heroes of foreign ways—what is these spoilsports’ problem?—and some people are letting the game endanger themselves and others, leading to these morons falling off a cliff, causing this idiot to drive  his car into a tree, and prompting this in Arizona…

Pokemon go traffic sign

Continue reading

Of Gluten, Bacon, And Reverse Deceit

gluten free baconThere is no valid scientific evidence that gluten–the protein in wheat, barley and rye—is harmful in any way unless you suffer from Celiac Disease, which few people do, or have an allergy to it, which isn’t common either. Somehow the food and nutrition scammers, aided by aging hippies, vegans and none-too-bright celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have convinced a depressing number of people that gluten is generally deadly, and this has created a boffo market for food marked “gluten free” and sold at unethically high prices, since they are supported by gullibility and little else.

Yesterday, I noticed that Boar’s Head pre-cooked microwave bacon is prominently labelled “gluten-free.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain that bacon, like my shoes, the pavement on the street where I live, my cell phone and my laptop, is always gluten-free. I checked my assumption on a gluten website, which confirmed it, but the site also said that you never know when bacon might be cross-contaminated by the nasty stuff, just traces of course, but you never know!!!! 

Apparently you do know if the company says the bacon is gluten-free, although I don’t know why. Nor do I know how you would prove you got sick from the trace gluten on your bacon, nor understand why the bacon doesn’t come with denials of contamination by anything else that might bother some people—-arsenic, peanuts, shellfish, penicillin, lactose, cat hair, broken glass, ISIS. Continue reading