Tag Archives: hindsight bias
As I already have noted here more than once, Senator John McCain’s ethical course was to resign from the Senate even before he got his brain cancer diagnosis, and definitely afterward. He is a courageous and admirable man in many ways, but the one of the hardest duties in life is to give up power and influence, and say goodbye when the time comes. The senator is not alone in failing this ethics test, indeed he is in distinguished company: FDR, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, Lawrence Tribe, Clarence Darrow, too many Supreme Court justices, including a couple current ones, and lots of U.S. Senators. Nonetheless, it is a failing, and in McCain’s case the failing has been compounded by his regrettable decision to use his status as a dying man to exploit the reluctance of critics to address the wrongdoing of the afflicted. He has decided top settle old scores in his final days. The conduct is petty and erodes his legacy, as well as the respect he had earned in his long career of national service. It is too bad.
Much of McCain’s self-indulgence is directed at President Trump, whom he is now insulting with mad abandon, banning him, for example, from the Senator’s funeral in advance. This is vengeance, nothing more ennobling, for Candidate Trump’s outrageous disrespect toward McCain and other prisoners of war when Trump said that he did not regard them as heroes. McCain revenge is thus a display of the kind of non-ethics Donald Trump believes in: tit-for tat, mob ethics, hit ’em back harder. The political theme since November 2016 is that the President’s enemies cannot resist lowering themselves to his level, or in some cases, below it. Strike-backs from beyond the grave are particularly unbecoming, but McCain is seething, and apparently can’t muster the other cheek, graciousness, or statesmanship. Too bad. Continue reading
A better application of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle would be difficult to find than the decision by Memphis, Tennessee to remove a huge monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and an even larger heroic equestrian statue (above) of Nathan Bedford Forrest, swashbuckling Confederate general and (allegedly) the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, from two public parks.
As we have discussed here in great detail, I am unalterably opposed to the current mania among our Left-leaning friends and neighbors of tearing down statues, monuments and memorials honoring past historical figures because their lives, beliefs and character do not comport with current day standards or political norms. This primitive exercise in historical censorship has been especially focused on famous and notable figures from the Confederacy, although recent efforts have targeted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and even Theodore Roosevelt. Of the attacks on memorials to Confederate figures, I wrote,
[ Union veterans] didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing views, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record.
I feel strongly about this, as the tone of that post, far from my first on the subject, shows.
But… Continue reading
Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One
As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.
Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”
And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.
I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.
Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:
- Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:
I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.
These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading
Ah, Ethics Alarms heaven! The statue-toppling mania issue has collided with the Boston Red Sox, just two days after my pilgrimage to Fenway Park!
ESPN reported yesterday that Red Sox owner John Henry wants Boston to change the name of the street that borders the legendary park, Yawkey Way, and he is trying to exploit the current political correctness mania that has cities pulling down statues of war heroes in the dead of night to accomplish his goal.
That’s my characterization, of course, not ESPN’s.
Henry told the Boston Herald that he is “haunted” by the racist legacy of previous owner Tom Yawkey, who led the team from 1933 to 1976. Because he is haunted, he thinks that it is fair and right that the man who beyond question saved the team, ran it as a Boston institution and public utility, and is as responsible as anyone for the fact that Henry owns one of the prestige franchises in all of sports, should be dishonored and shunned because he wasn’t enlightened about civil rights long before Martin Luther King began marching.
Such disgraceful moral grandstanding and self-righteous ingratitude is seldom seen. But I guess if anyone should be able to grandstand, its someone who owns a baseball park.
For those who mock the idea that the desecration of Robert E. Lee’s statues leads directly to George Washington, now hear this; for the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey is George Washington.
The only owner any one remembered before Tom Yawkee bought the team was Harry Frazee, consigned to Beantown Hell for selling Babe Ruth (and many other stars) to the New York Yankees in 1919. From that moment on, the team was a perennial loser, often in last place, while New York won pennant after pennant and sneered at its proud rival on the Bay. In 1933,
Tom Yawkey , a lumber tycoon and baseball enthusiast, bought the team and poured money and love into it, buying other team’s stars (Left Grove, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx) and turning the team into worthy challenger to the Yankees. From the beginning, Yawkey paid no attention to the bottom line as he tried to build a champion out of the franchise, or as he put it, “to bring a championship back to the fans of Boston.” This was during a period when teams had permanent control over player contracts, and most owners used that leverage to pay players pathetic wages. Not Tom Yawkee. He was criticized for over-paying players–hilarious now, when we’re talking about his paying a utility infielder $15,000 when others of his ilk were making just $8,000, and current utility players make a couple million dollars a season. Sportswriters in Boston called the Red Sox a country club, and blamed Yawkee for “falling in love with his players.” In 1960, Ted Williams had to ask Yawkey to cut his salary, because he felt embarrassed after a bad year, his only one.
Was Yawkey a racist? He was born in 1903, and grew up during the Wilson Administration, when Jim Crow really took of. Sure he was a racist, along with about 95% of the whites in the nation. Continue reading
Comedian and actress Kathy Griffin has reportedly been interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service for more than an hour. The investigation is connected to a recent photograph which showed her holding the bloody head of Donald Trump.
Griffin’s attorney contends that the actress was just exercising her constitutional rights.
“She basically exercised her First Amendment rights to tell a joke,” Dmitry Gorin, a criminal defense attorney representing Griffin said. “When you look at everything in the media, all the times entertainers make videos or express themselves in other ways, you’ve never seen an entertainer, let alone a comedian, be subject to a criminal investigation.”
Griffin’s attorney doesn’t have to “contend” that she was “exercising her constitutional right” of free speech, she was exercising that right—-irresponsibly, recklessly, unethically, stupidly, hatefully, but she was still exercising it. There is no question that her disgusting photo was inappropriate and pure hate posing as humor, but never mind: people choosing to be hateful and irresponsible in their public speech should expect consequences, but not from the feds. Of course it chills freedom of expression for Griffin to be subjected to this kind of secret police-style grilling. It is a matter of public record that she is a comedian. It is a matter of public record that she is a professional jerk. Thus it is a matter of public record that she is a no threat to the President….just to a civil culture and good taste. Continue reading
The Georgetown Time-Traveling Ethics Slavery Freak-Out, or “If You Can’t Count On Jesuits For Ethical Coherence, What Hope Is There?”
Last week, Georgetown University, one of the most prestigious liberal arts institutions in the nation, took a flying leap into full-fledged radical lunacy, basicly announcing that the entire school’s mission, budget, operations and culture must be centered on self-flagellation for the sins of slavery, and inviting the rest of the nation to do likewise.
As first steps, announced by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, the descendants of the slaves who built and worked at the Jesuit institution will be given the same edge in admission consideration as the children of faculty and alumni. Two buildings on Georgetown’s campus campus will be renamed, one for a slave, the other for a black Catholic educator who founded a local school for black girls. The university will also launch a center to study slavery and commission a memorial to slaves. That’s just the beginning.
What spawned all of this–and there is much more to come, if the report guiding the university is going to have the influence it promises—is the discovery that in 1838, a Georgetown University official, Father Thomas Mulledy, a co-president of the college, sold 272 slaves to a Louisiana plantation in order to keep the college open. Mulledy is being punished for this decision by having his name purged from a campus building and replaced by the name of one of the slaves who was sold. Now, nobody knows anything about “Isaac” other than his name. He could have been a bounder; he might have been a killer, a thief. Never mind. By virtue of simply being a black slave, he is now worthy of honor on the campus, and a priest who devoted himself to the college and his faith is consigned to oblivion.
Thus proceeds the airbrushing of history on our nation’s college campuses and elsewhere, as the leftist theory takes root that the way to control today’s minds is to remake the past to comfortable and politically correct specifications.
The building bearing the name of the other co-president who did not have the foresight to insist that the college dissolve rather than sell off assets in a completely legal and unremarkable transaction for the time will also be renamed, for a black Catholic educator who founded a local school for black girls…in other words, for someone with no connection to Georgetown University or reason to be honored there except her race.
Later, Georgetown is likely to enact other measures recommended in the report, such as mandating new students to take a“Historical Walking Tour of Black Georgetown,” touring the campus and the neighboring area to see sites that were involved with the institution of slavery. The report wants local public schools to collaborate with Georgetown to teach students about the university’s involvement with slavery. The University needs to “invest in diversity” by improving the “racial climate” on the campus through sensitivity training, also known as indoctrination. There will be ongoing studies on the current consequences of the school’s dependency on slave labor, and, of course, much research will be required to determine who the descendants of those 272 slaves are. No doubt about it: this will be the go-to school for those who want four years of concentration on an institution that was abolished in 1865. Continue reading