Sunday Ethics Insomnia, 11/29/2020: No Wonder I Can’t Sleep!

1. I hate 99.9% of the petitions offered at Change.org. but I’m signing this one . It reads,

Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, has recently come under attack from students and postdocs for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.
In these videos Prof. Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions.” The slides for each of Prof. Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof. Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable observer would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter containing the claim that Prof. Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities.

[Pointer: Pennagain]

2. “Hello, Newman...” According to the Postal Service’s own records, more than 150,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered in time for them to be counted on election day. This is, of course, as I and anyone else who was paying attention expected and predicted, because the USPS is undependable

I am surprised that the number was that low.

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Oh-oh: WordPress Deplatforms The Conservative Treehouse Blog

dead canary

I don’t understand this development at all. Perhaps I should say that I hope I don’t understand it. The move feels like another canary dying in the Free Speech mine.

A week after the 2020 Presidential election, The Conservative Treehouse received this from WordPress, which, as you know, hosts Ethics Alarms:

…”given the incompatibility between your site’s content and our terms, you need to find a new hosting provider and must migrate the site by Wednesday, December 2nd.

What’s going on here? This is the blog’s interpretation :

It means CTH is being kicked-off the WordPress website hosting platform because the content of our research and discussion does not align with the ideology of those who define what is acceptable speech and what is not.

What was our violation?  After ten years of brutally honest discussion, opinion, deep research and crowdsourcing work -with undeniable citations on the events we outline- there is no cited violation of any term of service because CTH has never violated one.

The WordPress company is not explaining the reason for deplatforming because there is no justifiable reason for it.  At the same time, they are bold in their position. Perhaps this is the most alarming part; and everyone should pay attention. They don’t care.

Truthful assembly is now the risk.  CTH is now too big; with a site reach of 500,000 to a million unique readers each day; and with well over 200,000 subscribers; our assembly is too large, too influential, and presents a risk… we guard the flickering flame.

The Conservative Treehouse is a professionally operated blog. I don’t visit it often; the tone is too ideologically rigid for me, and the lionizing of the late Andrew Breitbart, who proudly engaged in unethical journalism, signals to me that ethics is not high on the blog’s priority of values.

However, unless there is something more behind this event, it is ominous.

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“Systemic,” A Four Part Ethics Alarms Depression, Part I: Systemic Propaganda And Facebook

censorship2

I know who Bret Weinstein is; maybe you don’t. He’s a biologist, evolutionary theorist, and, of late, a free speech activist. The fact that you may not remember him is my fault: he was the hero in the Evergreen State College (in Washington State) racist fiasco in 2017, where the school decided it should order all whites off campus for a day. He was the sole professor on campus with the guts and principles to refuse to leave, resulting in his vilification, harassment, and ultimately, his resignation. Why I didn’t highlight his courage in an “Ethics Hero” post, I don’t know: I didn’t even give his name a tag in the sole post where he was mentioned.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Weinstein found his Facebook account suspended because he wrote something that the Thought Police there felt was inappropriate—you know, like all of Ethics Alarms is inappropriate on Facebook for daring to explain that performers who have worn dark make-up are not all racists or advancing racism

“I have been evicted from Facebook,” he tweeted to his 400,000 followers. “No explanation. No appeal. I have downloaded “my information” and see nothing that explains it. We are governed now in private, by entities that make their own rules and are answerable to no process. Disaster is inevitable. We are living it.”

Later,Weinstein revealed, Facebook told him it had “already reviewed” the suspension and the decision “can’t be reversed.”

Ah, but among his 400,000 followers is John Lennon’s articulate, contrarian and often conservative-sounding younger son, Sean. He tweeted to his friend’s rescue, writing,

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Time Op-Ed Writer Bret Stephens

shhhh

“It’s a compromise that is fatal to liberalism. It reintroduces a concept of blasphemy into the liberal social order. It gives the prospectively insulted a de facto veto over what other people might say. It accustoms the public to an ever-narrower range of permissible speech and acceptable thought. And… it slowly but surely turns writers, editors and publishers into cowards.”

Bret Stephens, intermittently conservative New York Times columnist, in an op-ed condemning the acceptance of censorship and self-censorship as norms by the modern Left.

Stephens is certainly on a roll lately. His previous column (effectively and accurately) condemning the pet Times race propaganda “1619 Project” for what it is (that is to say, cultural and historical toxic waste) was not his last, as many predicted, and apparently emboldened by his survival, Stephens is determined to “let it all hang out,” as they used to say in the Sixties. Once again, he is attacking his own paper, which has doubled-down in its determination to publish only the news it feels safe to let its readers know about.

It is telling that Stephens’ column was published in tandem this week with another attempt by the Times to hide the utter corruption of the Biden family from the public, at least until the election is over. Above the Stephens piece—also telling—is the poisonous Michelle Goldberg’s screed suggesting that the discovery of Hunter Biden’s incriminating (to both him and his father) laptop is more GOP “collusion.” The Times’ truly despicable headline: “Is the Trump Campaign Colluding With Russia Again?” Note “Again”: the Mueller investigation found no evidence of “collusion” by any American citizen, much less the Trump campaign (to be fair, it didn’t investigate the Clinton campaign’s Russian dealings), and yet the Times allows that lie to lead its Editorial page. Polls show (I know, I know: polls) that over 70% of Democrats still think the President won the election by colluding with Russia, and mainstream media descriptions like this is a main reason. And it’s intentional.

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Mid-Day Ethics Flashes, 10/16/2020: Casting Ethics, Celebrity Threats, Free Speech Suppression, And Conservative Clickbait

Flashes

1. The good brother. It’s not worth a full post, but Ron Howard deserves a call-out for being a good brother. Last night I finally watched “Frost/Nixon,” and wondered if, since it was directed by Ron Howard, Opie’s hideous younger brother Clint Howard would be in the cast. Sure enough, he was. Clint, like Ron, was a child star, most prominently in the TV series “Gentle Ben.” Unlike Ron, Clint was not treated well by the puberty fairy, and once his goofy looks stopped being cute, he had a face that was usable, if at all, in cheap horror flicks and in bit parts playing various creeps and thugs. Clint’s not a bad actor, he’s just not very versatile, and relentlessly hard on the eyes. He would probably not have an A movie to his credit were it not for the fact that his brother, the rich and famous star director, puts him in the cast whenever he can.

Well, good for Ron. Sure, it’s nepotism, but Clint is serviceable, and certainly capable of playing the parts he’s cast in, like one of the NASA guys in the control room in “Apollo 13,” or a referee in one of the less important Jim Braddock fights in “ Cinderella Man.” Getting such roles in Ron’s prestige films make Clint more attractive for the parts he’s up for in his usual vehicles, like the upcoming “Hell of the Screaming Undead.”

2. On a related casting issue, I watched the Netflix production “Enola Holmes.” It was fun, but the “anti-racism” casting was already in evidence: African Americans were scattered through Victorian London in odd and ahistorical places. It didn’t undermine the quality of the productions: all of the black actors and actresses were pros, but it did make the piece seem set in some fantasy land that never existed. If you know history, it is jarring; if you don’t, then it has no impact at all. I did find the non-traditional casting half-hearted: in virtually all cases, the actors “of color” were relegated to extremely minor roles a step above the extras. You know—like the parts Clint Howard plays in his brother’s movies.

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What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

It was only in May that I had a quick note in a morning warm-up declaring the 2015 film “Trumbo” an ethics movie. That it is, but subsequent developments have made me realize it is much more, including frightening.

The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the “Hollywood Ten,” now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism. This one varies from the first in that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.

After watching the film again and reviewing the history, for “Trumbo” is easily the best film about the blacklist, there is no question in my mind that this is true. Previously, I regarded the use of “McCarthyism” as a useful if over-used metaphor, like “witch-hunt.” (“McCarthyism” usually refers to the oppression and intimidation of the entire “Red Scare” period, including the blacklist, which was Fifties for “cancelled.” The “Hollywood Ten” were victims of the fascist House Un-American Activities  Committee, which was separate from the vicious Wisconsin GOP Senator, but “House Un-American Activities  Committee-ism” doesn’t roll off the tongue well.) Now it is evident that we are witnessing  in the United States  a mutated clone of what occurred across the country in the beginning of the 1950’s, with “racist” the current label being used to bully, silence, and ruin careers and lives, rather than “Communist.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/3/2020: Rationalizations #1 And #64

Well, maybe the Nicholas Brothers will cheer me up….

I wrote about Fayard and Harold here. Talk about victims of systemic racism: the only reason these guys aren’t as famous as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly is that Hollywood wouldn’t let them be. Justice would be making sure every single American kid sees this routine before they are 18.

1. Of course rioting is domestic terrorism. What else would you call it? It’s calculated violence against innocent citizens to promote fear and to advance a political objective. That’s terrorism.

If the truth hurts, tough. Boy, Rationalization #64. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is” has had a work-out this year!

2. New York Times priorities: Here’s the top front page headline in the Times today: “How Trump’s Idea For Photo Op led To Havoc in the Park.”  Riots, looting, attacks on police and deaths from the George Floyd riots, and that’s the story the Times believes should be first today. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Twitter

Twitter crossed the digital Rubicon this week, as we had to know it would sooner or later.  It added qualifying links to two of President Trump’s tweets  about mail-in ballots, in which he claimed they would cause the 2020 Presidential election to be “rigged.” The New York Times, typically, wrote that he “falsely” predicted that result, and there you have it: social media now is choosing to use its power to tell the public what opinions are “true.”…just like the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

The links — which were in blue lettering at the bottom of the posts and punctuated by  exclamation marks — urged people to “get the facts” about voting by mail. Clicking on the links led to a CNN story that said Mr. Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated and to a list of bullet points that Twitter had compiled rebutting the “inaccuracies.”

Because CNN is where reasonable people go who want “the facts.”

Twitter, as a private rather than a government communications platform, can do this if it chooses, and the consequences to the company are likely to be far less serious than the consequences to public discourse. There is no way this kind of policing of speech, from the President or anyone else, can be done fairly, consistently and even-handedly. Already, Twitter has demonstrated hard ideological bias in its choices of which Twitter users to suspend or otherwise censor, and this escalation opens the door wide to more abuse. Will Twitter be similarly vigilant in calling out Democrats, activists, pundits and journalists on their excesses? You know they won’t; they couldn’t if they tried. Twitter’s wan excuse is that Trump’s tweets are special. I suspect the company is setting itself up for some serious federal regulation. Continue reading

The Knight-Gallup Freedom Of Speech Survey

A survey just released by the Knight Foundation and Gallup shows that More than 75% of the college students surveyed want “safe spaces” on  campuses that are free of “threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.” However, a majority of the same students support President Trump’s threat to withhold taxpayer dollars from universities that restrict speech.

Though 97% of college students believe that free speech is “an essential pillar of American democracy”, a  majority of students support policies to restrict of speech on campus. 78% of students support “safe spaces” where threatening ideas and conversations would be barred. 80%  favor the establishment of a “free-speech zone” where pre-approved protests and the distribution of literature are permitted. Continue reading

“Nah, Academia, Mainstream Media And Social Media Aren’t An Increasing Threat To Free Speech!”

The Atlantic, the increasingly progressive culture and politics magazine, has offered its readers an article by Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith and Arizona U. law professor Andrew Keane Woods called “Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal: In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Two distinguished law professors are celebrating Communist China’s censorship of the web in contrast to the U.S.’s silly approach, that crazy First Amendment thingy.  Here are some quotes to chill you to the marrow of your bones:

Covid-19 has emboldened American tech platforms to emerge from their defensive crouch. Before the pandemic, they were targets of public outrage over life under their dominion. Today, the platforms are proudly collaborating with one another, and following government guidance, to censor harmful information related to the coronavirus. And they are using their prodigious data-collection capacities, in coordination with federal and state governments, to improve contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, and other health measures. As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently boasted, “The world has faced pandemics before, but this time we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good.”

Proudly working with each other and the government to censor the web!

“But the “extraordinary” measures we are seeing are not all that extraordinary. Powerful forces were pushing toward greater censorship and surveillance of digital networks long before the coronavirus jumped out of the wet markets in Wuhan, China, and they will continue to do so once the crisis passes. The practices that American tech platforms have undertaken during the pandemic represent not a break from prior developments, but an acceleration of them.”

You might think that the two authors are sounding an alarm over this development. Uh, no. They write, Continue reading