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

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up That Is Turning Up in the Afternoon Because I Looked Up At The Clock And Discovered I Had Missed Three Hours…

Good something.

(Damn job…)

1.  Police state, or stupid state? The Boston Globe reports :

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

The internal bulletin describes the program’s goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists,” and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked.

But some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third.

Look at these guidelines regarding what kind of conduct and clues could justify investigating a traveler:

I am less concerned with the civil rights implications of such idiocy than I am with the fact that the policy makers responsible for airport security appear to be morons.

But we knew that, I guess. [Pointer: Amy Alkon]

2. And it isn’t just the TSA. Remember when the IRS hired the same firm that had botched the design of the Healthcare.gov website? Now a recent Treasury inspector general’s report tells us that the IRS rehired more than 200 employees fired for misconduct in a little over a year. An earlier IG report indicates that this is a pattern dating back to 2009. It occurs, apparently, because the IRS does not provide officials responsible for hiring decisions with the information about employment history, so the IRS has rehired, among others…

  • A fired worker with several misdemeanor theft convictions and one count of felony possession of a forgery device.
  • 11 employees previously disciplined for unauthorized access to taxpayer accounts.
  • An employee who was absent without leave for 270 hours—the equivalent of 33 work days.
  • An employee fired for physically threatening co-workers.
  • An employee fired for lying about previous criminal convictions on employment forms.
  • 17 employees previously caught falsifying official documents.

Two IRS employees fired for poor performance were rehired within six months. In its response letter to the Inspector General’s Office, the IRS wrote that the IRS “determined its current process is more than adequate to mitigate any risks to American taxpayers, federal agencies, and its employees.”

Oh. All righty then!

Rep. Kristi Noem, (R-S.D.) has presented a bill, the “Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act,” to the House that would prohibit the IRS from rehiring employees fired for misconduct or poor performance.

Good. (Pointer: The Daily Signal) Continue reading

“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading

Another White House Closed-Door “Gotcha,” Another Chunk Gouged Out Of Our Liberties

The icky ethics category of private or limited audience statements that get unethically publicized by malign third-parties to embarrass and harm the speaker has been explored here many times, notably in the case of Donald Sterling, the NBA owner and billionaire who lost his franchise, millions of dollars and his reputation over a remark he made in his own bedroom that was surreptitiously recorded and released by a treacherous girlfriend.. The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s course rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

 

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

The most recent example of this unethical sequence occurred after Kelly Sadler, a White House special assistant, stated in a closed-door policy meeting that Senator John McCain’s opposition to Trump’s nominee for CIA director “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.” Some saboteur in the meeting, determined to harm both Sadler and her boss, leaked this small moment in a private meeting, in which participants reasonably assumed they did not have to be politically correct, nice, kind, civil or careful because everyone in the meeting had tacitly agreed that the meeting was confidential. That, and only that, is the ethical breach here. (Nah, there’s no “deep state”…there are just nefarious moles in the White House who coordinate with the news media to undermine the President. That’s all!). Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/2018: Special “Was That Wrong? Should I Have Not Done That? I Gotta Plead Ignorance On This Thing Because If Anyone Had Said Anything To Me At All When I First Started Here That That Sort Of Thing Was Frowned Upon…” Edition*

Good morning, all.

Let’s get warmed up…

1  Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:

Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.

I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.

I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.

2.  Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show  in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…

When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.

For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her. An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:

  • In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.

• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.

• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.

MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…

Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading

What Clarence Darrow’s Dayton Statue Stands For

Apparently about a third of the population of Tennessee still doesn’t buy Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study) so it should not be too much of a surprise that in Dayton, Tennessee,  site of the famous 1925 Scopes Trial, a newly erected statue of Clarence Darrow in front of the historic red brick courthouse where the trial took place was met with some protests. At a County Commission meeting in the town,  resident Ruth Ann Wilson suggested that bronze Darrow might unleash a plague or a curse. “I rise in opposition to this atheist statue, all right?” she said. “This is very serious, folks.”

No, that isn’t serious, but the persistence of ignorance both generally and about the issues battled over in 1925 are.  Another resident, Brad Putt, is quoted by the New York Times as saying,  “People around here know that if you have a court case, you have to have two sides,” referring to the fact that there has been a Williams Jennings Bryan statue standing in front of the courthouse  since 2005. “You can’t have Optimus Prime unless you have Megatron. You’ve got to have a yin to the yang.” Well, that’s not quite right either, depending on what Bryan and Darrow symbolize. If the idea is to have the most famous opposing counsel in U.S. legal history facing off, okay, that’s fair. If he is saying, as I think he is, that science and religion must counter and balance each other, that’s nonsense. Continue reading