Coulrophobia Ethics: The Irresponsible Clown Dad

There has been an outbreak of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) for some reason, heightened by pranksters and web satirists taking advantage of one of our periodic societal freakouts as Halloween approaches:

  • Hundreds of students at Penn State set out to hunt clowns this week after rumors that clowns were loose on campus, chanting”Fuck the clowns!”
  • A dorm was evacuated at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, after the “Clown Watch” Twitter feed reported a sighting of a scary clown with a rifle. It was a hoax. 
  • In Portland, Oregon, police arrested David Dahlman, 55, for wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves and threatening middle schoolers. This clown charged an assistant principal who intervened.
  • A 13-year-old girl was arrested in Hampton, Virginia., for trying to get a person posing as a clown online to kill one of her teachers. 
  • A 14-year-old boy in Houston was charged with making terrorist threats toward his school using an online clown image.
  • Also this week, several hundred University of Connecticut students  gathered in a cemetery near midnight, ready to do battle with the evil clowns they had heard were hiding among the headstones. Police had to respond, and were not amused.
  • Police in  Lancaster, California warned that men wearing “ugly-looking clown masks” were using kitchen knives to frighten people and then videotaping their reactions.
  • Menacing clowns sightings were also reported in Modesto,  prompting police there to issue a warning to residents saying, “If you see anything or anyone suspicious, including individuals dressed as clowns, to avoid contact and report the circumstances to us immediately.”

Fear of clowns has been a cultural joke for decades. “Seinfeld” had whole storylines based on Kramer’s coulrophobia.Why is this happening now? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, though CNN came up with five equally unsatisfying theories. Why? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why do fools fall in love? Why isn’t Hillary ahead by 50 points?

As long as the fad and its manifestations are in good fun and don’t endanger anyone, there’s nothing to be concerned about, though Stephen King felt compelled to try to calm the madness:

king-tweet(This is rich coming from King, who created the creepiest clown in literature as the villain of his novel “It.”)

Unfortunately, there are always those whose ethics alarms don’t ring. In Auburn, Massachusetts,  a father who followed his child’s school bus from the bus stop, wearing a scary clown mask. The middle school students in the bus were reportedly terrified. He was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet'”

charlotte4

I am often disappointed in the volume and balance of comments on particular posts here. Yesterday, I was waiting for someone to defend the extreme reaction to Glenn Reynold’s unseemly tweet regarding the Charlotte riots, and was especially interested in hearing arguments why Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger’s blunt tweets were “racist” as so many headlines were calling them. Admittedly, I was waiting for such arguments because it would be so easy and fun to reduce them to rubble, but still: where are the people who want to stifle speech and opinion, and who believe that criticizing violent rioters and Black Lives Matter should be punished so severely? Clevenger has been docked about $28,000 for expressing an opinion on Twitter, and sportswriters, who get paid to opine, often cretinously, on the web every day, are cheering. I know defenders of speech and opinion suppression are out there, but they are mute, rationalizing, I think, that they are right but those brutes on Ethics Alarms are too primitive to understand.

At least many of the comments that the posts have spawned are of high quality and extremely thoughtful. This is the second Comment of the Day inspired by them, by Chris Bentley:

I was thinking about a particular topic as I drove home from work today, about why people, mostly people on the left, justify and rationalize the behavior of looters during riots. After reading Jack’s initial post regarding Instapundit, I went to read the linked Reason.com article, and then checked out the comments section. One person, with the screen name Krabapple, made the following comment:

“Yeah sorry I can’t take seriously moderation from a company that allows the hashtag #killallwhitepeople but not this.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet”

twitter-bird-censoredBy purest happenstance, today was dominated by the ethics issues raised by tweets about the Charlotte riots from two commentators who couldn’t be more different, conservative pundit-professor Glenn Reynolds and Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger. Both issued excessively undiplomatic tweets to express their dismay at the state of U.S. race relations as demonstrated by the events unfolding in North Carolina. Both encountered the race-baiting, intimidation and attempts to chill free expression that are increasingly emerging as the standard weapons of the political left. Both saw the response to their words raise issues of double standards and the dangers of criticizing even the most indefensible conduct, like rioting and looting, when the rioters and looters have the sympathy of the news media, the politically powerful (and cynical) and sufficient numbers of social activists.

Both episodes also highlighted the dangers of using the deceptive simplicity of Twitter to express opinions and ideas that require more nuance and care.

Putting the cap on spontaneously generated “Controversial Tweet Friday” is this Comment of the Day by Jeff H, one of Ethics Alarms’ longest tenured commenters:

This is one of the reasons I try my very hardest never to use my Twitter to make someone’s day worse. It’s not that I haven’t had arguments on there every now and again, but as far as I know, I have very seldom been blocked for it. That’s because I try to keep it all elevated to a certain level or respect that we should all have when talking to strangers. (I did once get blocked for a Rickroll…)

I agree that him saying that is basically acceptable hyperbole and did nothing to further endanger the protesters (that they weren’t already facing by being on the highway. I say, if you block the highway for a protest, you’re a total jerk. I’d rather you make it home safely after doing something so stupid, but if you don’t, it will be entirely your own fault.) Continue reading

Next Up At Bat On “Controversial Tweet Friday,” The Reserve Catcher’s Tweets!

cropped_clevenger

Like Prof. Reynolds, Seattle Mariners second-string catcher  Steve Clevenger decided to express his unhappiness with the riots in Charlotte using his Twitter account, and also like the “Instapundit,” found himself in trouble as a result. Before posting the above tweet, Clevenger wrote this as his introduction:

cropped_steve_clevenger1Twitter didn’t suspend Clevenger’s account, but his employer, a baseball team located in a very liberal city and also a team that is embroiled in a desperate fight to make the play-offs, reacted initially with this, also on Twitter…

mariners-tweet

Clevenger apparently didn’t expect that his tweets would suddenly result in his being labelled as a racist blight on humanity  by the many, many, people on social media who live for such incidents, and he quickly released a long and emotional apology:

First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates, my family and the fans of our great game for the distraction my tweets on my personal twitter page caused when they went public earlier today. I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.

“I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgemental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill worded tweet.

“I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I like many Americans are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone.

” I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting. Thank you and God bless everyone.”

Steve Clevenger

Continue reading

Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet

reynolds-tweet

Yesterday, conservative law professor, author and blogger Glenn Reynolds learned that Twitter had suspended his account, and he wrote on his iconic website Instapundit...

Can’t imagine why they’d do that, except that it seems to be happening to a lot of people for no obvious reason. It’s as if, despite assurances to the contrary, Twitter is out to silence voices it disagrees with or something.

Then he learned that his offense was the above tweet. Reynolds wrote…

Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.

and..

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance”

But one of Reynolds’ extra-curricular gigs (he is a University of Tennessee law professor) is monthly columnist for USA Today. After the progressive Furies took to social media and demanded that he be fired from the law school, dropped by the newspaper and forced to wander in the wilderness in sackcloth, Gannett’s paper suspended him for a month.

Reynolds was reinstated by Twitter after purging the offending tweet, and he issued this mea culpa to USA Today:

Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.

I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”

Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”

I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.

Today, Reynolds wrote on Instapundit:

TWITTER HAS UNBLOCKED MY ACCOUNT ON CONDITION OF DELETING THE OFFENDING TWEET. But lest I be accused of airbrushing, it’s preserved here. Still planning on quitting Twitter, though, after making a few points. Earlier post is here. UPDATE: From Nick Gillespie at Reason: In Defense Of InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds. “Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible.”

Related: “Glenn Reynolds is old enough to remember Reginald Denny. (Look it up, kids.)”

and

SO MY USA TODAY COLUMN is suspended for a month. My statement is here. I don’t apologize for saying that you shouldn’t stop for angry mobs, even if they’re blocking your way. But I could have said it better

Observations:

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Abortion Ethics Train Wreck Update: Trump’s Comments Prove He Hasn’t Thought About Abortion (Irresponsible), Criticism Of Hillary’s Comments Prove Abortion Advocates Don’t Want ANYBODY Thinking About Abortion (Dishonest), and Pundit Criticism Of Maureen Dowd’s Question To Trump About Abortion Makes No Sense (Incompetent)

stages

Good job, everybody!

It is a cliché to say that Americans never talk frankly about race. Yet our aversion to honest talk about race pales compared to the lazy, intellectually dishonest and cowardly way we discuss one of the major ethics conflicts of our age, abortion.

1. For some reason, it took seven months of the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination for anyone to ask Donald Trump about his views on abortion, which is a core issue to conservatives, progressives and feminists, as wellas a major factor in the controversy over the composition of the Supreme Court. Never mind that Trump’s answers were incoherent and contradictory, and that he took  five different positions on abortion in three days last week: what was outrageous about Trump’s answer(s) was that he was obviously winging it. He had never given the issue any quality thought at all (if he is capable of quality thought, which I doubt), and faking it, indeed as he has faked his entire campaign. Do Trump supporters need further smoking gun evidence that he is not only unprepared for the Presidency, but too lazy, irresponsible and intellectually limited to be trusted with the job?

Okay, we know they do, because they are impervious to logic or reason.  Still, this was a stunning display of Trump’s hollowness and incompetence as a candidate.

2. Then Hillary Clinton wandered into the same mine field, a map of which she should be know by heart. “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights,” Mrs. Clinton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.”

To begin with, the statement is false: the Supreme Court has ruled that embryos do have rights at some point, much disputed, before they are born. She was correct, however, that a living, growing organism that left alone and allowed to mature will be born, and will upon birth be a person in the eyes of the law and in the definitions of common sense, is by definition a person prior to that except for the absence of its birth, and thus is, by common construction, an unborn person, or, if you prefer, unborn human being, unborn baby, or unborn child. A bill is an unpassed law. A manuscript is an unpublished book. A law school grad is an unlicensed lawyer….which is to say, not a lawyer until something happens that has not happened yet. Hillary did not misspeak, except that speaking the truth is misspeaking to the pro-abortion lobby.

The problem is that Hillary’s terminology conjures up images of tiny hands and tiny heads, perhaps with tiny mouths sucking tiny thumbs. Hence she was immediately taken to the woodshed and told to be more careful about what she admits to. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: New York Times Journalist Brent Staples

Staples

Brent Staples, who I'm sure is certain I am criticizing him because he is black...

Brent Staples, who I’m sure is certain I am criticizing him because he is black…

I view this as tragic, in so many ways. Brent Staples himself is apparently the victim of the cultural poison he is peddling, that every failure, misfortune or criticism of an African American must be presumptively rooted in racial animus rather than the shortcomings or fault of the black citizen involved. Others who use this strategy of race-baiting as a political weapon are not as sincere as Staples—he writes this kind of thing in editorial columns all the time—but they have joined with him to do terrible damage to race relations, all in defense of a President whose incompetence is too painful for his supporters to accept.

I realized that this would be an unethical political weapon Democrats could not resist using back in 2008, when Obama was running against John McCain. I warned against it then. The Democrats were arguing that Obama was so clearly the only choice for voters that he could only be defeated by racism, for only racists would oppose him. I wrote..

This strategy would be unethical even if the Democrats weren’t the party nominating an eloquent abstraction with less governing experience than any Chief Executive within memory. It is insanely irresponsible when used to back a candidate about whom there are many legitimate doubts, mysteries and questions. Both parties deserve respect; both candidates deserve respect. And the democratic system deserves the most respect of all.  

But is the Democratic message wrong if party decision-makers and faithful really believe it? Yes, because the belief is unsupported by hard, persuasive, un-slanted facts, and that makes it irresponsible and unfair…A belief alone is not enough to justify claiming victory for an untested leader with plenty of holes in his resume. Belief alone is not sufficient justification to lay the groundwork for race-baiting in the wake of an electoral loss in November.  

I’m a rational, informed voter who does his research and knows the issues, and I may choose not to vote for Barack Obama for any number of legitimate reasons—including the offensive attitude of his party—that have nothing whatsoever to do with his race. How dare the Democratic Party, Obama, or anyone shout to the media that my vote is motivated by racism? This is playing with societal dynamite. 

The Democratic message that the election is a slam dunk for Obama if America can only avoid bigotry and election fraud is a recipe for civil unrest, racial tension, and the unraveling of public faith in our institutions. It is reckless and offensive, and, take note, Democrats, idiotic.

Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout

It is times like this when I wonder if my theory that ethics evolves toward wisdom may be excessively optimistic.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University officials went bananas when a fraternity engaged in randy verbal hijinks of questionable taste at its off-campus home across the street from the institution. ( “Hijinks of questionable taste” is synonymous with “acted like a fraternity.”) Some frat boys hung painted bedsheets as banners to welcome incoming freshmen co-eds, thusly:

Fraternity

Well, THE HORROR!

ODU’s leadership responded to the tomfoolery by issuing the following statement:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not [be] tolerated. The moment University staff became aware of these banners, they worked to have them removed. At ODU, we foster a community of respect and dignity, and these messages sickened us. They are not representative of our 3,000 faculty and staff, 25,000 students, and 130,000 alumni.

Ours is a community that works actively to promote bystander intervention and takes a stand denouncing violence against women. The ‘It’s on Us’ video is just one example of ODU students’ leadership on this topic. In addition, the University ensures all students receive education on the prevention of sexual harassment and relationship violence.”

Old Dominion’s Student Government Association also issued their own verbal condemnation of the incident. They filmed a video directly addressing the banners and stated: Continue reading

Harry Reid Hatred And The Tit-For-Tat Addiction

mob enforcer

Once again, the ethically disabled in conservative punditry are forcing me to come to the defense of one of the most loathsome politicians extant. Senator Harry Reid’s announcement that he is leaving the Senate after his current term expires in 2016 has inspired a spate of baseless speculation that the serious facial injuries he sustained on New Years Day were not the result of an exercise equipment mishap, and may have been the souvenirs or a beating by Vegas mob goons to teach “Dirty Harry” to deliver the goods when the Godfather ask a favor.

As Basil Fawlty would say, “Oh, thank you! Thank you so VERY MUCH!” I love wasting a good hour of sock drawer organization explaining why its wrong to mistreat the likes of Harry Reid. Continue reading