The “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” Scandal

Some people are now conditioned to see racism in everything, and they are a menace to society, sanity, and the pursuit of happiness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What does it mean that the above scene from ” A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” first aired on November 20, 1973 and every year since, suddenly struck some Americans as “racist” in 2018?

Hint: it doesn’t mean that the public is becoming more “woke” to actual racism in America. It means that the relentless effort by one segment of society and many in the news media to use the accusation of “racism” as a political wedge and a weapon to achieve power has officially reached the most dangerous level yet, and is gradually poisoning society. The idea is to make virtually anything potentially “racially insensitive”—choice of words, clothing, casting in TV shows, law enforcement, voting, socialization choices, literally anything and everything, including innocent composition choices in animated cartoons. The objective is to produce fear….fear of making a mistake, fear of offending anyone with hypersensitivity to racial slights, real or imaginary, fear of being labeled guilty of “racism,” which is now the worst crime on earth. This is a sick development that will create a sick society and a dysfunctional culture.

Here is how one critic describes the evidence of racism in the above picture:

“Franklin, the one and only black friend in the group, is seated by himself on one side of the table while the other is crowded with the rest of the friends. On top of that, he’s sitting in a lawn chair as opposed to everyone else’s proper furniture.”

This is deceit and trouble-making:

  • There are six human beings at the table, one of whom is black. In fact, the diversity exceeds the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. There is nothing racist about him being “the one and only.”
  • Franklin is not sitting “by himself.” He is sitting at the same table with his friends as a welcome guest at a community gathering. Is Linus, who also has one side of the table to himself, sitting “by himself” too? No, he’s a member of the group, at the same table as his friends. Is Marcy, at the opposite end, sitting “by herself?” No, she is also sitting with the group, just like Franklin.
  • Is having one side of a communal table considered some kind of insult? Not at any table I’ve been seated at. I love having a side to myself. It is also an advantage to be able to look at your family and friends across a table, rather than to have to talk to them by turning your head and craning around. There is a strong argument that Franklin is being treated with special consideration.
  • Why did the artist set up the table like that? I guarantee it was not to make a racist statement. How can I guarantee that? I guarantee that because 1) the “statement’ would be idiotic 2) because nobody out of millions of viewers saw any such statement for four decades 3) because if you wanted to be hostile to blacks, you could just skip Franklin. Franklin, a minor, (indeed transparently token) “Peanuts” character added to the comic just five years earlier, is at the gang’s celebration in place of Schroader, Violet, Pigpen, and even Lucy, all more prominent characters. So what’s the theory, that the cartoonists gave the black kid a place at the table over major, long-standing characters in order to insult him? How racially paranoid do you have to be to think like that? The answer is “pretty damned paranoid,” and that’s the state of mind malign political forces here want to promote.
  • Here’s why the table was set like it was:

Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/28/18: Expired Ethics, Sleeping Fact-Checkers, Ghosts, The Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck Of Them All…

It’s a beautiful morning!

1. When “Everybody Does it” isn’t just a rationalization. I was asked by a law firm to render an opinion as to whether particular conduct was a violation of the legal ethics rules.  A legal ethics opinion—bar associations issue these periodically to cover gray areas– in the jurisdiction said that it was, but the opinion was over 20 years old. The reasoning given in the opinion for declaring the conduct unethical was that the practice was “new to the jurisdiction” and might mislead or confuse the public.

Today, however, my research showed, the conduct is commonplace in that jurisdiction. Many, many law firms engage in it. What was new two decades ago is new no longer, and the reasoning for the opinion’s conclusion was based on conditions that no longer exist. Moreover, no firm has been punished for the conduct, and won’t be.

The firm was concerned that the legal ethics opinion had not been over-ruled or withdrawn. I said that it didn’t have to be. “Everyone” was engaged in the conduct it forbade, the bar had allowed “everyone” to do it, and if an issue was raised now, I am 100% certain that the old opinion would be withdrawn as no longer reasonable or germane.

2. One more human feature that makes ethics harder: the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory and mutually exclusive beliefs.

I was watching one of the apparently inexhaustible supply of cable shows about haunting and paranormal investigations with my wife. This one climaxed in a session with a Ouija board, and the love of my life uttered, within seconds of each other, these two statements:

  • “It’s amazing how many otherwise intelligent people really believe in ghosts and demons.”
  • “Ouija boards! I wouldn’t allow one of those things in the house. I’m not taking any chances.

I have heard many other friends and acquaintances endorse both of these positions as well.

3. It is the study of how one discerns the truth, after all. Who needs it? They no longer teach ethics in our education system, and now apparently philosophy is on the way out. Claremont Graduate University in California will be closing the PhD program in philosophy and terminating two tenured faculty. Apparently the move was dictated by budget and “market considerations.” The Claremont colleges in Southern California are a distinguished and growing batch consisting of Pomona, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont-McKenna, and Pitzer. They still have a philosophy faculty, but I wonder for how long.

I was tempted to check the curriculum of these schools to see what kinds of courses were deemed worthy of support while a graduate degree in philosophy was not, but I decided that it would make my head explode. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Chandra McKinnon

 

There is moment in my favorite Saturday matinee movie, “The Vikings”—okay, it’s tied with the original “Journey to the Center of the Earth”–where Ernest Borgnine as Ragnar, the Viking King, is about to be thrown, hands bound, into a pit of ravenous wolves by his Britsih captors, A Viking, we have learned, can only go to Viking Heaven, Valhalla, if he dies with a sword in his hand. Just as Ragnar about to be tossed, Tony Curtis cuts his restraints and hands  him a sword, and the Viking King, beaming, leaps into the pit with a victorious shout of “VALHALLA!” They didn’t have CGI back then, so we only got to hear the sounds of him killing snarling wolves left and right until he was finally mauled, but I always could picture Ragnar’s battle in my mind.

That’s also how I picture Chandra McKinnon, a Canadian law clerk, as she fights off the hoards of mindless anti-pit bull breed hysterics over at The Post That Never Dies, Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org . which has over 5,000 Facebook shares and which has been attracting dog breed bigots regularly since 2015.

Chandra leaped into the pit shortly after I gave up trying to reason with these idiots. I finally added this to the post:

In the future,  comments to this post that consist of nothing but repeating the same disproven myths and ignorant beliefs about the various pit bull breeds will not get through moderation. Any serious, well-researched, civil comments presenting counter arguments and genuine statistics to the facts and expert opinion discussed in these posts are welcome. Citing dogsbite.org as authority will guarantee rejection. Lumping multiple breeds together as “pit bulls” proves laziness, bias and ignorance, and will also result in the comment being spammed. Dumb arguments like “You can’t prove they aren’t pit bulls!” will have the same results.

It is depressing how many people will hold on to a factually unsupportable bias despite every effort to enlighten them, but then prejudice against humans works the same way.

It was getting ridiculous. The commenters, sent my way in intermittent waves by the website’s defenders, are usually semi-literate and always immune to reality.  I have banned more commenters on that post than any three elsewhere on the blog. Here is part of a typical rant from one of them, since banned under the Ethics Alarms Stupidity Rule:

Mr Marshal, why is there a FB page titled Our Pets were Attacked by Pitbulls?… If pitbulls are no more aggressive than other breeds, then why are there no similar pages for other breeds?? Why no “Our Pets were Attacked by Poodles” FB page??…Because these breeds have never killed a human EVER, so most likely will not maul another dog!! …As an ethics person, do you think it’s ethical to prioritize the lives of one breed, the fighting pitbull, over the lives of numerous other breeds, and say well I don’t care about the lives of all those other breeds as long as we can own our pitbulls?? Doesn’t matter that pitbulls kill and injure multiple other breeds each and every day, as long as I fullfill my selfish want for a breed that has no purpose in today’s society since it was bred for a sick bloodsport, then I’m fine with that!! IS THAT ETHICAL???

Continue reading

The Diggy Fiasco : Pit Bull Bigotry Madness With A Happy Ending. THIS Time.

My post of two years ago about the horrible anti-pit bull website dogsbite.org continues to attract comments from dog breed bigots who have either been deceived by dogsbite, or who go there to confirm their own ignorance. What is remarkable about these posts is that they are almost identical. They repeat the same falsehoods and the same debunked arguments, as if every one of their points hadn’t been thoroughly discredited by experts, dog breeders, researchers, and rational sites like Ethics Alarms. Pit bull hysterics simply will not yield to reality, and they don’t appear to care how many families their disinformation harms and how many loving dogs they kill with the “dangerous breed” legislation they extract from lazy lawmakers.

Here is a recent story showing  how deranged these laws are, their cruelty, and the kind of scenarios dogsbite.org and its fans encourage.

In June 2016, Waterford Township, Michigan, resident Dan Tillery and his girlfriend Megan  purchased their first home. The couple wanted to adopt a dog, and eventually found Sir Wiggleton, a big, white, happy canine nearing the end of his stay at a shelter after 100 days. Dan posted a photo of him with his new companions, with the caption,   “We know this photo is going to break the internet and we apologize, but we had to share…Sir Wiggleton and his new Dad are celebrating adoption day with huge smiles all around!”

Damned if the photo almost did “break the internet.”  But the viral picture of Sir Wiggleton, now renamed “Diggy,” inspired nightmares in some local pit bull phobic, so he or she reported Dan, Megan, and Diggy to the police.

The officers knocked on the door and informed Dan that he had violated Waterford’s ban on owning pit bulls. According to the township, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are considered to be “dangerous dogs.” Obviously Digby was a killer…

This possessing a vicious canine like Digby…

was a punishable crime. The dog police told Dana and Megan that Diggy would have to be returned to the Detroit Dog Rescue or else there would be consequences, even though Diggy’s adoption papers stated that he was an American bulldog. Continue reading

The Washington Post, Pit Bulls, And How We Know It Is Foolish To Trust The News Media

 

If you think about it, you know you shouldn’t trust the news media.

Decades ago, I realized that almost any time I read or watched a news report involving something I knew about, it was almost always wrong, confused, left out important data, or lied.  Initially this realization manifested itself in sports reporting about baseball in general and the Boston Red Sox in particular, but later, as my knowledge expanded, so did my experience with authoritative news reports that were, metaphorically of course, full of crap. When I ran a research foundation for the US Chamber of Commerce, this phenomenon really came into focus. Reporters misunderstood what researchers said in answer to their questions. They misrepresented the press releases. They obviously didn’t read the full studies, and pretended they had. They misquoted me.

I didn’t think this was sinister. Mostly, the cause was laziness and inadequate intellectual training and cognitive skills. Most reporters I dealt with just weren’t very bright or well-educated. And I it suddenly hit me, one fine day in the Spring of 1981, like bolt from the blue:

Tf news reports are so often significantly wrong when I know a lot about the topic, why do I believe and rely on news stories about topics I don’t know much about? It makes no sense to trust these people.

The depressing thing is that the news media was far less biased and far more professional then than now. At least you know, however, that my distrust of U.S. journalism isn’t of recent vintage.

I thought about my 1981 epiphany when I read this story in the Washington Post this morning. It is crafted as a heart-tugging report about the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy, with the headline,  “‘It’s my baby. It’s my baby’: Two pit bulls fatally maul 7-year-old boy in Mass., authorities say.”

As readers here know, Ethics Alarms has thoroughly researched and covered the topic of ignorant anti-pit bull breed bias. The argument that the three to five breeds commonly regarded as “pit bulls” are inherently dangerous and more so than any other large breed rests on the same illogic as racial bias against humans; it has no factual basis in science or experience. I also, quite separately from my research, have a lot of personal experience with dogs of all kinds, including the so called “bully breeds.”

The reporter obviously does not, nor did he do the research necessary to write this story competently. The first sign is that the dogs are identified as “pit bulls” according to “authorities.” The authorities are obviously not authorities on dog breeds, and multiple studies have shown that few people are capable of accurately identifying a “pit bull.”   First, there is no such breed. The breeds commonly called “pit bulls” are American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers  and the American Pit Bull Terrier, as well as the American Bull Dog, because it kind of looks like a pit bull, and the Bull Terrier, which has “bull” in its name. Pit breed mixes are also often identified as pit bulls, though a lab/pit bull breed mix, for example, is as much a Labrador retriever as a “pit bull.” Never mind. If a large dog has short ears, a muscular body, a square muzzle and bites someone, that’s plenty, along with confirmation bias, to lead an “authority” to identify a dog as a “pit bull,” and for the news media to report it that way. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And ‘“Vive La différence!”’

[I’m especially very grateful to have an inventory of strong Comments of the Day—two more to post after this!–since I woke up today with painful stiff neck that makes everything from walking to chewing painful, and looking down at a keyboard ridiculously difficult.]

In response to fair, reasonable, liberal commenter and mother who had just written that when it came to looking out for her daughters, extreme caution was the rule, meaning that heterosexual men were regarded as inherent potential threats if the were strangers…even the fathers of  her daughter’s friends (maybe even—this is my thought, not hers–a Vice President!).reader Chris Bentley raised several interesting points. As with many Comments of the Day, this one was not strictly on topic; workplace sexual harassment and discrimination was the subject of the post, except on the broad issue of the different genetic wiring of man and women,

Here is CB’s Comment of the Day on “The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment,Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And “Vive La différence!”:

Having said that, why is it OK  to profile, stereotype, to pass judgement on someone, solely because of their gender, and the statistical likelihood that someone, due to their gender, would cause harm to your daughters, if that specific person has given you no reason to see them a a threat?

Everyone stereotypes, especially when A) the stakes are too high to be wrong; and B) it’s unlikely the “recipient” of our stereotyping will ever know what we’re thinking..and if they do, refer back to A. But we all still do it.

I get that the percentage of people who are pedophiles is disproportionately in favor of men, and any good parent isn’t going to play fast and loose with the safety of their kids, just to appear to be “fair” to a stranger. And it’s okay for women to take precautions when out jogging alone, and they come across a man who, regardless of what they’re doing, make them feel uncomfortable, because, again, disproportionate percentages. In these situations, how you feel when safety is involved legitimately trumps any other possible facts in the situation, of the feelings of the other people involved, because the stakes are too high to be wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/24/17

This morning, my mind is occupied by one long-standing ethics issue, and the rest seem trivial in comparison. Let’s warm up by trying to find some way out of this mess.

The ethical problem seems increasingly beyond our ability to solve. Yesterday there was second mistrial in the retrial of Raymond M. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who has been charged with the 2015 murder and voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Samuel DuBose, an unarmed motorist.  This is the third example of a police officer shooting a black man under questionable circumstances being found short of being criminally responsible in a week:

In St. Paul, police dashboard video showed Officer Jeronimo Yanez shoot into the car where Philando Castile was sitting with his fiancée and her daughter, and acquitted the officer. In that case, the officer appeared to have panicked after Castile reached into his pocket for his wallet after telling the officer, unasked, that he was carrying a firearm. In Milwaukee, jurors acquitted Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown after watching frame by frame as he shot once at fleeing armed suspect, Sylville K. Smith, then fired a second time after Smith tossed the gun he was holding and lay on the ground. Now, in Cincinnati, jurors couldn’t agree on the proper culpability of Officer Tensing. He stopped  DuBose for a missing license plate, then asked him for his driver’s license. Instead of producing it, DuBose pulled the door closed with his left hand and restarted the car with his right hand. The officer reached into the car with his left arm, yelled “Stop!” twice, and used his right hand to fire his gun directly, into Mr. DuBose’s head, killing him.

What can we say about these scenarios, and many others? Continue reading