Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charles W. Cooke

“You’re going to need a plan. A state-by-state, county-by-county, street-by-street, door-to door plan. A detailed roadmap to abolition that involves the military and the police and a whole host of informants — and, probably, a hell of a lot of blood, too. Sure, the ACLU won’t like it, especially when you start going around poorer neighborhoods. Sure, there are probably between 20 and 30 million Americans who would rather fight a civil war than let you into their houses. Sure, there is no historical precedent in America for the mass confiscation of a commonly owned item — let alone one that was until recently constitutionally protected. Sure, it’s slightly odd that you think that we can’t deport 11 million people but we can search 123 million homes. But that’s just the price we have to pay. Times have changed.”

—-Charles W. Cooke in a National Review self-described rant in 2015, ” …Aimed at Those Who Would Repeal the Second Amendment”

I missed Cooke’s piece in 2015, but it should be required reading today. Today was “Kill the Second Amendment Day” on social media and among the talking heads on Sunday Morning TV shows, in part because the obligatory coordinated freak-out over any tragic shooting always hits a brick wall of reality that disingenuous talk of “sensible gun reforms” won’t remove, and because for the second time in barely a week, , a New York Times op-ed regular advocated taking a big chunk out of the Bill of Rights. Once again, it was another Times house conservative, Bret Stephens, making the very un-conservative case for abridging individual rights. Earlier it was Ross Douthat wanting to hamstring freedom of speech in order to make “better men.” Stephens wants to repeal the Second Amendment.

I received fair criticism for attributing Douthat’s column to the leftist agenda of the Times, but Stephens’ piece reinforces my theory. For quite a while it has been clear that the Left views the Constitution as an impediment to it ascendance to transformational power the U.S. This has been on display from many angles, on many fronts, and with increasing intensity.  Progressives tried to get around the Electoral College to elect Hillary, and attacked that Constitutional device for months. They still regard the Due Process clause as an annoyance and an obstacle to blocking untrustworthy citizens from acquiring guns. During the battle over Obamacare, multiple leaders of the Democratic Party mocked the idea that the Commerce Clause imposed any limits at all on Congressional power, hence its ability, in their eyes, to “pass a law forcing citizens to buy broccoli.” (SCOTUS ruled otherwise, but the individual mandate was rescued by a creative Chief Justice.)

Hillary Clinton proposed excepting political speech in the form of purchased public advocacy for political candidates from the First Amendment. The grass roots Left, along with members of the media and leaders of the Democratic Party like Howard Dean, have not only denied that so-called “hate speech” is protected, but have acted as if it isn’t, and demanded that it shouldn’t be.  Majority Democratic states and cities are actively defying federalism in their efforts to prevent the enforcement of immigration laws. Since President Trump’s election, many Democrats in Congress and elsewhere that Constitutional requirements for impeachment should yield to simple numbers: If a party has enough votes, it should be able to remove a President, or at least this one.

I think it’s clever for the Times to use its nominal conservative writers to advance the progressive cause of selectively gutting the cornerstone of everything the United States of America has achieved in two and a half centuries. I also think that is what it has done here.

But I digress. Continue reading

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The Reason We Can’t Trust Progressives With Power: They Really Don’t Like Free Speech [CORRECTED!]

It’s not just “hate speech,” and speech questioning climate change, and conservative speakers on campus, and professors using offensive words to discuss how we should treat offensive words, and political speech by citizens banding together to support candidates and express issue positions. and employees making jokes that others choose to find offensive.  Increasingly prominent progressive elected officials, activists, scholars and pundits are advocating the elimination of free expression in realms that have been long protected by the Supreme Court, and that are currently protected as First Amendment speech by the Constitution.

Witness New York Times  columnist Ros Douthat’s recent op-ed flippantly titled, “Let’s Ban Porn.”  Buried in the essay’s Authentic Frontier Gibbberish designed, I assume, to numb the ethics alarms is a call for content-based government censorship, meaning that communicating “porn”–which the Supreme Court never got closer to defining than Justice Potter Stewart’s  famous and pathetic “I know it when I see it”—would be a crime.

How can a journalist, of all people and professions—excuse me,professions—advocate doing what the Bill of Rights specifically prohibits? By stooping to an argument like this one..

“But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut….The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches.”

No, Ross, the reason that we can’t imagine such censorship is because the United States of American is predicated on the core principle, among others, that the government restricting what can be imagined, said, expressed, written and published is far, far more dangerous that any content that can be imagined,  said, expressed, written and published, and thus the remedy for controversial, ugly or otherwise controversial speech is more speech, not laws. What Douthat’s op-ed translates as, and heaven knows it needs a translation though there is no “Leftist Virtue-Signalling Bloviation” to English handbook that I can find on Amazon, is that porn is bad for people, though apparently only men, because the Left’s official position of the moment is that Men Are The Problem.”  For example,  douhat writes,

“So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.”

Continue reading

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Question: Is There Any Justification For A State Censoring Vanity Plates? (And What’s Wrong With “KAIJUU”?)

My answer to the first question? Absolutely not.(  My answer to the second is, “I have no idea.” ) If a driver can put a sign in his rear view mirror or a bumper sticker on her bumper without state sanctions, then a driver should be able to have whatever he or she chooses on a vanity plate.

Utah, for examples, bans vanity plates with profanity, “derogatory language,”  drug references,  sex talk, references to bodily functions, “hate speech,” targeting a particular group, or advocating violence advocates, as well as alcohol references and the number combo “69.” Ethics verdict: None of their business. These are words and numbers, and the state is declaring content and intent impermissible. When I see a car with an obnoxious vanity plate, I’m grateful. This is useful information. Racist or vulgar plates translate into “I am an asshole, and want you to know it!”

Thank you, sir! I appreciate the heads up.

Below are the plates banned by Utah over the past five years. Most of them fly right over my head. If you have to be a cryptographer to figure out why a plate is offensive, then it’s not offensive.

The less our governments interfere with freedom of expression, the safer we are.

Here’s the list (the  pointer marks indicate spaces): Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/18/2018: Enemies Of The People

Today’s Comment of the Day teaches a couple of lessons:

1 Contrary to common belief, and Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day does not have to be long, though many are. Indeed, I was tempted to make Willem Reese’s one sentence comment to the Kangaroo People abortion ethics thought experiment a Comment of the Day. He asked, shaming us all,

“The deciding case would likely be Roo v.Wade, then?”

2.  Late comments on older posts are still worth reading.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/18/2018: Enemies Of The People:

Over the past couple of decades, approximately, I have become increasingly uneasy, depressed, anxious, angry, isolate and finally maddened by what has gone into the methodical and insanely deliberate betrayal of ideals and freedoms, the destruction of respected, useful institutions, the disregard for all the high, bright values in “my” society, my culture. But even when the detrimental changes began to affect me directly — my person, my quality of life, my safety and security (such as it was: I’ve never needed much) — I clung to the mantra this too shall pass. But, as my historian friend kept reminding me, the 500+ year old Roman Republic went belly up within the same amount of time, and never found its feet again. Still, I wasn’t scared out of my wits until I read the word “COUNTERSPEECH.”

Counter. Speech. Against speech. Not just anti-First Amendment, something to STOP PEOPLE FROM SPEAKING. Not just “free” speech; simply not using any words that mean anything. The language of technology, the language that becomes more abbreviated with all its faster-than-life(sic) changes, a spoken version of texting and twitting, a dumbing of vocabulary, a numbing of nuance. . A muffling of all meaningful voices. The left will pull the blanket over its head first, and willingly, and not even understand what is happening until it wakes up in the middle of the night with its headphones glued to its brains, silently screaming.

Much as I hate to bring up the name of der Furher because it has become such a cliche, he has the most appropriate description of what “Counterspeech” can become. It is akin to what Hitler first announced at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 as The Final Solution.

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Dear Regan Chastain And Her 9,670 Anti-Fat Shaming Hysterics: 1) It’s Satire and 2) Stop Trying To Censor Expression You Don’t Like

Nice, Regan. You can dance. Now get a sense of humor…

There was  an unanticipated side benefit of visiting Alas! A Blog, cartoonist Barry Deutsch’s home for the furious left-addled, as I researched the previous post. I also caught Barry giving space to fat-activist (not fat activist, for that would be rude) Regan Chastain as she fulminates against an Esquire U.K. feature by writer Giles Coren called ““I Don’t Care What My Son Becomes… As Long As He Isn’t Overweight.” Chastain is furious, and apparently Barry agrees. I presume he’s signed her Change.Org petition that demands that Esquire pull the post as “hate speech” (sigh!) and fire Coren.

For in her petition Chastain says that Coren…

Calls his 4-year-old son a “fat little bastard” and a “chubby fucker”

Says that “to bring forth upon the world a fat son is indeed a shame before God”

Says that he would rather his son be a “crackhead” than be fat.

Says about fat people: “I’d kill them all and render them down for candles.”

He ends the piece by saying that he “tries to look at the positive” but “other times I think, “I’d best get the chubby fucker’s jaw wired before he’s old enough to stop me.”

Read the article. Is there anyone out there who can’t tell that the article is satire, and intended to chide parents who obsess over their kids’ weight? How about the photo he posted with the article, showing his “fat” son? This…

Does that not constitute a sufficient clue? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/21/17: Fake Bravery, Mysterious Hate Speech, Vindictive Ex-Presidents, And The Trans Fold-Out

I confess: I miss New England…

Good Morning.

Thank God it’s Saturday.

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:

  1. An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
  2. 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.”

The Answers:

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?

Sure, Playboy. Whatever you say.

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Ethics Dunce: The Dr. Seuss Museum

The fanatics who pollute the left end of our political spectrum apparently have no limits to their purges, political correctness tantrums, grandstanding, bullying, and efforts to warp the past, present and future. To fit their rigid view of a “just” culture, they have begun demanding that the cultural landscape must constantly be cleansed; no real or imagined discomfort to sensitive progressive souls can be permitted to survive in art, history, literature or the public square.

Since even their worst excesses are cloaked in self-righteousness and the Saint’s Excuse, what this requires of the rest of us—you know, those who have perspective and proportion, believe in diversity of thought, and object to airbrushing reality out of the nation’s palette—to have the courage and integrity to say, “No.”

Sometimes “Hell no.”

The directors of the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts lack these and other necessary markers of ethical character and responsible citizenship. Thus when three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Seuss Museum to be held on October 14 threatened to boycott the event because the above mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive, the museum cravenly excised that section of the painting.

Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee issued a public letter condemning the drawing as a “jarring racial stereotype… with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.”

“We find this caricature of ‘the Chinaman’ deeply hurtful, and have concerns about children’s exposure to it,” they wrote.

If the directors possessed comment sense, principle or the backbone God gave a guppy, they would have written back,

“We are sorry you cannot attend, and also that you are so enamored of political correctness grandstanding that you would unjustly insult Theodore Geisel, his work, his millions of fans, and this museum by your false and hysterical characterization. We do not engage in censorship here, nor do we accept presentist slurs on past art that involve retroactively applying modern sensibilities or hyper-sensitivities, to classic works that are decades old.”

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?

Let’s look at the offensive figure again: Continue reading

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