Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/17: Jailed For Profanity, Busted For Homophobia, Condemned For A Settlement

Good morning…

This is weird…The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld a mother’s conviction for swearing at her son. Ginger Breitzman had been found guilty of child abuse, including one count was for profanely berating and insulting her 14-year-old son after he burned some popcorn. The boy had been talking to a friend at the time, who heard the tirade over the phone and reported it. The mother was sentenced to six months in jail. Apparently the First Amendment was  never raised as a defense, and an issue is whether it should have been and had to be.

I don’t see how a parent or anyone can be convicted of a crime based on the content of her speech, especially private speech, but it is a gray area in ten context of child abuse. In sexual harassment,  the content of one’s speech can create a hostile work environment, but the civil violation is for the act of creating the hostility, not the speech itself. In many cases, that’s a distinction without a difference, though. A supervisor using the term “cunt” in the workplace is probably harassment, no matter how or to whom he uses it.

Check the link and the mother’s mug shot. I wouldn’t want to have her mad at me…

2. Joy Reid being hateful? I’m shocked—shocked! MSNBC’s serial race-baiting, hate-spewing host Joy Reid found herself huminahumina-ing after someone tracked down her old blog and found multiple examples of gay-bashing on it.  Notably, she mocked GOP Florida Governor Charlie Criss, a married man who has been rumored to be a closeted gay, as “Miss Charlie.” What do you think of her apology?

This note is my apology to all who are disappointed by the content of blogs I wrote a decade ago, for which my choice of words and tone have legitimately been criticized.As a writer, I pride myself on a facility with language — an economy of words or at least some wisdom in the selection. However, that clearly has not always been the case.In 2007 I was a morning talk radio host and blogger, writing about Florida politics (a blog I maintained until 2011.) Among the frequent subjects of my posts was then-governor Charlie Crist, at the time a conservative Republican, whose positions on issues like gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in Florida shared headlines with widely rumored reports that he was hiding his sexual orientation. Those reports were the subject of lots of scrutiny: by LGBTQ bloggers, writers and journalists, conservative blogs, a controversial documentary film called “Outrage,” and even by the comedic writers at South Park. But it was my own attempt at challenging Crist on my blog that has now raised the issue of not just my choice of words, but what was and is in my heart.

Let me be clear: at no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community, which includes people whom I deeply love. My goal, in my ham-handed way, was to call out potential hypocrisy. Nonetheless, as someone who is not a member of the LGBT community, I regret the way I addressed the complex issue of the closet and speculation on a person’s sexual orientation with a mocking tone and sarcasm. It was insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb. There is no excusing it – not based on the taste-skewing mores of talk radio or the then-blogosphere, and not based on my intentions.

In addition to friends and coworkers and viewers, I deeply apologize to Congressman Crist, who was the target of my thoughtlessness. My critique of anti-LGBT positions he once held but has since abandoned was legitimate in my view. My means of critiquing were not. In the years since I went from blogger to opinion journalist, I have also learned, through brilliant friends and allies in the LGBT activist community, how to better frame my critiques of those who challenge people’s right to love who they want, marry them, and walk in the world as fully free people.

Re-reading those old blog posts, I am disappointed in myself. I apologize to those who also are disappointed in me. Life can be humbling. It often is. But I hope that you know where my heart is, and that I will always strive to use my words for good. I know better and I will do better.

It’s not terrible. I’ll give her a #6 on the Apology Scale: ” A forced or compelled [apology], when the individual (or organization) apologizing knows that an apology is appropriate but would have avoided making one if he or she could have gotten away with it.” I doubt that it’s sincere, because of lots of clues in the text. She says she deeply apologizes to Christ, then says her criticism was legitimate. She was presuming hypocrisy on the basis of rumors: how is that legitimate? She sucks up to the LGBT community; she says that at “no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community,” when her rhetoric obviously was intended to demean Crist based on his presumed homosexuality; she sneaks in an “everybody was doing it” excuse. Continue reading

More Speech Policing In The Service Of Political Correctness: The Matt Joyce Affair

“GET HIM! He used a bad word!!!”

An obnoxious fan was verbally abusing Oakland A’s player Matt Joyce during 8-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, and he responded in kind, or perhaps worse than in-kind, since what the fan was saying has not been reported. In his angry exchange with the fan, however, Joyce used what is only described as an “anti-gay slur,” which I assume to be “fag” or faggot.” If it was “cocksucker,” which I don’t believe is an anti-gay slur as used by athletes and others, then the description is misleading.

I have no problem with the fact that Joyce was disciplined for this. He’s a professional, and major league players have to put up with fans, even those who behave despicably. (Harassing a player with abusive verbiage is unethical, and the fan should have been ejected.) However, the player’s offense was a single word, and the punishment was two games suspension, which in Joyce’s case is about a $60,000 fine. $60,000 for a single word hurled in the midst of an argument is cruel and unusual punishment. Worse, Major League Baseball required that Joyce now participate in an outreach program with PFLAG, a “family and ally organization” supporting the LGBTQ community. That’s indoctrination, and an abuse of authority. The issue is incivility, not insufficient sensitivity to a minority group.

Joyce grovelled and apologized all over the place on Twitter, as if he had condemned the entire LGBT community. He needed to apologize to the fan he used the word on. That’s all. As we discussed in the case of a previous ballplayer, Kevin Pillar, disciplined this year for using the same term during play, this appears to be virtue-signalling by MLB, and unfair. Would Joyce have been suspended for, say, calling the fan “fuckhead”? Would he have to go to Fuckhead Sensitivity Training?

I wrote, Continue reading

The Kevin Pillar Suspension: What Exactly Are The Current Societal Standards Regarding Homophobic Slurs, Civility, And Free Speech? I’m Confused.

In the seventh inning of the Atlanta Braves’ 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, Braves reliever Jason Motte “quick pitched”  Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar, striking him out. Quick-pitching isn’t illegal except in extremes, in which case it is called a balk.  It is, however, considered a bush-league tactic. Tempers were flaring in this game already, and Pillar was so upset by the pitch that yelled “Faggot!” at Motte. A “benches-clearing incident” ensued, called such because baseball players seldom really fight.

Nobody in the stands heard what Pillar said,  and most of the players didn’t either.  It was later lip-read off of the videotape of the game. There is no evidence that Motte is gay, so this was just a spontaneous utterance intended to mean “I don’t like you,” or something. If Motte were gay, and Pillar called him a faggot, this would be personal denigration based on a characteristic.

I mention this because calling a woman a bitch is not sexual harassment in the workplace; it’s just uncivil. Calling a man a bitch, however, has been found to be sexual harassment, as an innuendo about sexuality rather than character. It seem pretty clear  that Pillar was not making a sexual allegation.

After the game, sensing what was to come, Pillar issued an apology to Motte, saying, “It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game.” Is there any doubt that athletes saying vulgar things to each other (and umpires) on the field is part of the game? I have seen players, managers and coaches clearly say “fuck,” “shit,” and “son of a bitch” for decades, too many times to count. One of my all-time favorite players, hippie former Boston lefty Bill Lee, was once caught by a face-on camera as he sparked a real baseball fight by pointing at the Yankees’ Greg Nettles and articulating, “HEY FUCKHEAD!” Lee wasn’t suspended or fined, and this was thirty years ago.

But Major League Baseball launched an investigation of Pillar. Of words. On a baseball field.   Pillar issued a more complete apology on his Twitter account:

He apparently guessed what was coming, or had been tipped off. Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays suspended Pillar for two games. Pillar isn’t yet in the highly-paid star category: he makes “only” $521, 000. A two game suspension will cost him about $6433 for a one syllable expletive. MLB has not taken any action, and apparently won’t.

Now, the Blue Jays, like any employer, can make any rules it chooses regarding the workplace. Obviously slurs cause bad feelings and are not the kind of things a professional sport wants its young fans to associate with its heroes. Still, any time people get punished for mere words my ethics alarms go off, and they also go off when so many people don’t seem to have ethics alarms regarding chilling speech and expression. Therefore I have some questions: Continue reading