Unethical—Or Maybe Head-Exploding—Quote Of The Month: New York Times Media Writer Ben Smith

“But the paper needs to figure out how to resolve these issues more clearly: Is The Times the leading newspaper for like-minded, left-leaning Americans? Or is it trying to hold what seems to be a disappearing center in a deeply divided country? Is it Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden?”

—-Ben Smith, the New York Times’ media writer, regarding the “moral ” dilemma [ Postcard From Peru: Why the Morality Plays Inside The Times Won’t Stop” ] revealed by the controversy over the Times forcing out its top science writer for saying “nigger” in Peru instead of “n-word”.

Hold the center? HOLD THE CENTER?? HOLD THE CENTER????? Oh, God, I can’t…oh no ..ARGHHHH!

Head jack boom many

What a mess! I’m so, so sorry.

And that’s just one paragraph! Since my head has already been shattered beyond hope, here’s another one:

This intense attention, combined with a thriving digital subscription business that makes the company more beholden to the views of left-leaning subscribers, may yet push it into a narrower and more left-wing political lane as a kind of American version of The Guardian — the opposite of its stated, broader strategy.

Is Smith gaslighting us? Is the Times really that lacking in self-awareness? This outrageous piece was featured on the front page! “Gee, I wonder if we’re too biased…”

The New York Times drove one of its veteran journalists out of the paper for speaking the specific word he was discussing in the context of a student question about racist and sexist language, because some woke high school students said they were offended, and the Times’ staff censors of color demanded their pound of flesh. The Times editor then made the ridiculous and untrue statement that ‘intent’ didn’t matter, which was correctly condemned by a Times op-ed writer in a column that was censored by the paper.

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“Intent” Ethics: The “Grape Soda” Caper

Grape Soda

Little noticed when it was reported a month ago, but of special interest now that the New York Times is on record that the use of a racist slur is to be regarded as a racist act regardless of the intent of the speaker, is the decision by The New York Racing commission to ban a prominent trainer from competition for giving a horse a name that isn’t racist but apparently intending it to be a racist slur. Yes, it’s a reverse Donald McNeil! What do you say, Bret Stephens?

As Alice said in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!” The banned trainer is Eric Guillot, whose horses have earned more than $13 million in purses and have won 259 races. “Racism is completely unacceptable in all forms,” David O’Rourke, the association’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “NYRA rejects Eric Guillot’s toxic words and divisive behavior in the strongest terms. Our racing community is diverse, and we stand for inclusion.” What were the “toxic words”?

“Grape soda.”

Yes, grape soda. I confess, I’ve used the words “grape soda.” I like grape soda; always have. But Guillot, see, named a horse “Grape Soda” after tweeting on New Year’s Day that he was giving a 3-year-old colt a “unique name in honor of a TVG analyst.” The tweet had a Black fist emoji. Apparently “grape soda,” in addition to meaning, you know, grape soda, has been used somewhere I’ve never been as a racial epithet. So bad an epithet is it that the New York Times wouldn’t dare print it in its headline: “NYRA Bars Horse Trainer For Using Racist Name.” I couldn’t find out what the “racist name” was until six paragraphs into the article. The Times didn’t even call it the “GS-word,” though it says it “can” be a racist term, presumably based on context and intent. But now, as a Times columnist discussed in a banned op-ed, the Times says intent and context doesn’t matter. If that’s true, then “Grape Soda” must be presumed to have the same meaning in the case of the horse as it is presumed to mean anywhere else, like when I say to my wife, “Hey, while you’re at 7-11, pick me up a grape soda please!” But that does not seem to be the case in this story, and the Times itself doesn’t challenge the logic that “Grape Soda” as a name for a horse is racist simply because it was dedicated to the only black horse-racing analyst. They think. Or someone thinks.

Confused? Me too, and I have some questions:

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Why Freedom Of Speech In America Is Threatened: Too Many Cowards

Coward

Oh no, not this issue again so soon.

Another prominent professional has been fired for breaching political correctness rules and annoying the totalitarian Left’s censors. His crime: speaking the taboo word “nigger” while referencing it in a discussion of racial slurs. Then, as we have seen over and over again, the exiled victim of this assault on free speech apologized. “Thank you sir, may I have another?” And, as we have also seen, it did no good.

The New York Times fired its #1 science and health reporter Donald McNeil Jr., after The Daily Beast reported that he had used racist language while on a 2019 trip with students to Peru. He did not use “racist language,” however, and there is no evidence at all that he displayed racist attitudes or opinions. What he did is to speak a word that speech censors have decided is itself forbidden, even if it is necessary in order to discuss the issue of racism, censorship or linguistics. This is, I note again, punishing or even criticizing such conduct is unethical, idiotic, juvenile, and sinister. Nonetheless, it is rapidly becoming the norm, and it is becoming the norm because so many individuals of power and influence lack the integrity and fortitude to oppose an indefensible position loudly and unequivocally.

(See the previous post. It is very relevant here.)

McNeil, formerly the Times’ top reporter on COVID-19,was fired because six students or their parents claimed he had made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip. An investigation inicated that none of his remarks were sexist or racist, but that he had used words employed by sexists or racists to talk about sexism or racism, rather than using the approved poopy/ pee-pee/woo-woo baby talk codes (n-word, b-word, c-word) demanded by language censors. Initially, the Times’ editor tried to be fair and to uphold what the Times is supposed to respect—the Bill of Rights—but eventually capitulated to his woke and anti-free speech staff, as he has before.

So here are the cowards in this nauseating drama:

Coward: Dean Baquet. The Times Executive Editor initially said McNeil should be “given another chance” (Chance to do what? Conform his speech to oppressive conformity with progressive dictates?).”I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but it did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious,” he said. But anti-white racist and liar (but Pulitzer Prize-winning racist and liar!) Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones threatened to call the parents and students on the trip to determine what McNeil had said and in what context (all of which would be hearsay, and thus unreliable except to an ideological hack like Hannah-Jones). Then a group of over a hundred staffers, mostly “of color” or female, signed a letter demanding serious sanctions.

“Our community is outraged and in pain,” the signees wrote. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”

Baquet, publisher A.G. Sulzberger, and Chief Executive Meredith Kopit Levien responded that they welcomed the letter, saying, “We appreciate the spirit in which it was offered and we largely agree with the message,” they wrote in masterpeice of weasel-wording. Then Baquet reversed himself and fired McNeil, saying, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” Really? So if a news story involves a racist or sexist statement, the Times can’t write about it and use the langauge that makes the episode a story? If the Supreme Court holds that “nigger” or other words are constitutionally protected (as indeed they are), the nation’s ‘paper of record’ won’t be able to quote the opinion?

Baquet had an opportunity to take a crucial stand for freedom of expression and against the criminalizing of language and the retreat to the primitive logic of taboos. He proved himself to be more interested in Leftist agendas and his job than the principles of democracy.

Coward: Donald McNeil Jr. He could have articulately objected to the warped logic of the Times mob, and explained, as he was equipped to do, why we must never cripple expression by banning words, legally or culturally, and why this episode is a perfect example why. Instead, he wimpered an illogical and craven apology, telling the staff in part,

McNeil grovel

Well hello Galileo! He went on to say, “I am sorry. I let you all down.” He let a newspaper down by using a word in a discussion with students in Peru to examine the use of the word. He let a newspaper down by being clear and describing the matter under discussion… because at the New York Times, progressive agendas trump the truth.

Well, I guess we knew that.

Since he was going to sacked anyway, was obligated as an American to go down fighting for free speech and against the censorship of expression. Nah. That might interfere with getting his next job with an ideological indoctrinating institution or publication.

Coward: Ann Althouse. This is disappointing. She says the right things in her post on this fiasco:

In the old days, a big deal was made of the “use/mention” distinction. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Even McNeil, defendinghimself, asserts that he “used” the word.
I understand wanting to say that “intent” shouldn’t be decisive, because it presents evidentiary problems. What went on in a person’s head? Did he somehow mean well? But the “use/mention” distinction doesn’t require a trip into someone’s mind. If you have the outward statement, you can know whether the speaker/writer used the word as his own word or was referring to the word as a word. 
You don’t need to know whether I think Dean Baquet is a coward to distinguish the statement “Dean Baquet is a coward” from “I can imagine someone saying ‘Dean Baquet is a coward.'”

But there’s something oddly missing from her post. As one commenter coyly asks (and to her credit, Ann allowed it to be posted): “What word are you talking about?”

In this case, Althouse is a hypocrite as well as a coward. I can expect her to be on the sidelines with the mob when they haul me off to in the tumbrils because I write the word “nigger” when the topic is using the word “nigger.” Such reticence—I guess she’s worried her University of Wisconsin law school pals will shun her–does not help the cause of freedom of expression, which Ann knows damn well is under attack

Yet PETA’s Campaign To Limit Speech Is No More Unethical Than Other Attacks On Freedom Of Expression, Just More Self-Evidently Stupid…

Speciesism

It doesn’t matter what words, phrases or expressions politically-motivated censors try to eliminate from the language, be it gender pronouns, “retard,” fuck,” “nigger” (or “niggardly”), “bitch,” “Karen,” or “master; ” “a chink in the armor,” “sexual preferences,” “Illegal aliens,” or “anchor babies.” The intent is to limit the ideas that can be expressed, and, eventually, thought. The principle is pure Orwellian linguistic: what the brain can’t express, it can’t imagine. The technique is unethical; worse, it’s a weapon against democracy and freedom of thought.

PETA, the U.S. organization that most egregiously misuses the word “ethical” in its name (with CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is a close second) would like to erase the boundaries between human beings and animals in law and culture. Thus it must have seemed like a natural progression to them to come up with “speciesism,” a form of alleged bigotry in which humans view themselves as superior to animals, just because they are. Hence the new directives above. PETA wants dictionaries to excise from the language derogatory metaphors involving certain animals. “Animal-related slurs used to debase humans reinforce inaccurate and harmful characterizations of animals,” PETA says.

“Oh, shut up and get a life, you silly people,” Ethics Alarms says. Animal metaphors and comparisons contribute to the richness of language and literature, and unlike negative characterizations of human individuals and groups, nobody’s feeling are hurt, because, see, one of the reasons humans are superior is that they can read and understand complex language.

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Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day, Part 2: ‘Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!’”

The epic, two-part Comment of the Day by Steve-O-In-NJ spawned a another Comment of the Day of perception and edge, this one by Humble Talent. His topic is the slogan “Silence is violence,” another example of a deft Comment of the Day saving me time, for I was going to have to post on it if someone else didn’t. That bumper-sticker line irritates me almost as much as “No justice, no peace,” “Black lives matter,” “Believe all women,” Give peace a chance,” “Better Red than dead,” and “Go Yankees!”

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day, Part 2: ‘Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!’”:

One of the tropes coming from the left in this latest bout of medical withdrawal guised as activism is that “Silence is Violence”. This in the latest variation on the theme of the left’s stretching to unrecognizability the definition of violence. No, silence is merely inconvenient for people looking to uproot the status quo.

Similar to that is speech. “Free speech” is one of the most commonly misused terms on the internet. The first amendment doesn’t protect you prom private individuals. A principled free speech position doesn’t require the right to an audience. There is no duty to listen. I actually think that “Free Speech” would be better understood if it were also approached from the inverse: Free speech includes the right to hear what someone wants to tell you.

Alizia made a comment recently, predicting that I would eventually speak in favor of the suppression of free speech because I wouldn’t speak out against Viacom firing a fellow after said fellow spouted anti-Semitic rhetoric on the air. I don’t think I’ll ever get there. But I do think we all need to take a step back and re-evaluate what things mean.

For instance, a “counter protest” is speech, but if the counter protest is designed not to respond to speech, but to drown it out and to prevent people from hearing the speaker they want to hear, not only does that violate free speech principles, but hiding behind free speech to conduct a counter-protest is hypocritical. A principled position is not a suicide pact. I don’t think we have a duty to humor the calls for free speech from the people actively violating yours. Sure, a protest is speech, but what’s going on here isn’t simply a protest, and it’s not just speech. Continue reading

The Disgraceful OAN T-Shirt Affair: Oklahoma State Joins The Madness

(I decided that on a Sunday morning you need a break from the “Madness! Madness!” clip, since I could justify including that one with almost every post of late.)

The Mike Gundy “scandal” at Oklahama State—he’s the football coach who is paid more than any professor—anwers the question of whether there’s a weird variation on “The Naked Teacher Principle” called “The White Big Time College Football Coach Who Wears a T-Shirt With The Name of a Conservative TV Channel Principle.” The answer appears to be “There is, but there shouldn’t be.”

This Bizarro World plot started unfolding a couple of weeks ago. I apology for missing it. I think college football is an ethical blot on higher education; I was happily unaware of what OAN stood for (One America Network), and I pay no attention to the words on T-shirts, including my own. This, however, as the George Floyd Freakout and The Great Grovel go, was  epic.

I all began when someone posted this picture of Oklahoma State’s  football head coach Mike Gundy (That’s the coach on the right) during a fishing outing with his sons.

Gundy was wearing the dreaded OAN T-shirt. Nobody knows how long he wore it or why: some days I end up donning a particular T-shirt  on it happened to be the easiest one to pick up off the floor. OAN, in case you’re as out of touch as I am, is a Fox News competitor for the conservative-tilted news market. It has been an enthusiastic promoter of President Trump, so naturally he likes it, he really likes it! Some of the network’s talking heads have also been critical of Black Lives Matter, especially lately.

Thus it was that when Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, an African-American the Heisman Trophy contender, who was the nation’s leading rusher last season,  saw that photo on social media, he retweeted it with an exclamation of outrage:

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“What? That Horrible Nancy Pelosi Kept Ripping Up The President’s Speech Again And Again?”

The video above was released by the Trump campaign, and tweeted out by the President. It made effective, if predictable, use of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s inexcusable stunt of symbolically ripping up the President’s State of the Union text at the conclusion of his address.

Immediately upon the ad’s release, the Speaker’s office demanded that Twitter and Facebook take it down. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted, “The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests.” But a Facebook spokesman replied on Twitter, “Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?”

Hammill indignantly responded,  “What planet are you living on? This is deceptively altered. Take it down.” Facebook would not.  “I can confirm for you that the video doesn’t violate our policies,” said representative Andy Stone, pointing out that what Facebook called “unacceptable altered video” were those edited to make it appear that a person said something they didn’t say, or did something they didn’t do.

Ugh. The video was edited to make it appear ( though not fooling anyone with an IQ above freezing) that Pelosi ripped up the speech while the President’s various human interest salutes were unfolding. That’s something she didn’t do. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

KABOOM! YouTube Pulls “The Triumph Of The Will”—Hate Speech, You Know. Can’t Have That!

I would have included a clip of “Triumph of the Will” here, but apparently such a film never existed…

Well, I can’t complain too much; it’s been a while since a news story propelled my brains through my skull to the ceiling. However, the trigger this time demonstrates that several developments are even worse than I thought—or believed they would get—such as…

  • The Left’s embrace of historical airbrushing and censorship as part of its strategy of controlling thought and knowledge.
  • Social media’s meat-axe approach to policing online content.
  • The perilous state of the First Amendment as both the Left and its allied media seek to control art as well as speech.

YouTube released new policies regarding “hate speech” yesterday  to “reduce more hateful and supremacist content from YouTube.”  Since the new policies almost immediately resulted in the removal of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Nazi propaganda epic “Triumph of the Will,”    I can confidently conclude the the policies are far too broad, and also that those executing them have the perspective of the average person who has grown up in a cave, and the judgment of the PTA scold who wants to ban “Huckleberry Finn.” Continue reading

Facebook And Instagram Leap Down The Slippery Slope To Thought-Policing

Facebook has banned right-wing activists Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Joseph Watson, white supremacist Paul Nehlen,  Jones’s company, Infowars, and  Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

And yes, it is unethical. And frightening. The irony is that Facebook says that the ideas promoted by these mostly fringe figures are “dangerous.” Nothing any of them say or write are anywhere nearly as dangerous as promoting censorship based on content and political viewpoint.

It doesn’t matter that all of the political and opinion figures Facebook banned from its two social media platforms are assholes, bigots and hate-mongers—I can’t say for sure that all of them are, since I only bump into any of them when I take a wrong turn on the Information Superhighway, as Al Gore liked to call it. I can say for sure that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan meets that description, just as I can say for sure the media spin that he is “right wing” is ridiculous. If he’s so far right, why have so many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the only-recently resigned co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, met with him, posed with him, and generally given him legitimacy?  Barack Obama posed with him too, though that photo was stored in the media memory hole until he was safely elected President.

Oh, I get it: only conservatives spread hate, ergo Farrakhan must be a right winger.  I suspect that the real reason Farrakhan was on the initial list of banned users was so Facebook could claim, when challenged, that it wasn’t just banning  advocates for the far right.

Progressives and their allies need to get their stories straight.

Let me get back to the first sentence: for a major source of communication in our society to permanently censor anyone based purely on the ideas and opinions they advocate is unethical, and is a serious threat to freedom of expression in the United States. Continue reading