Comment Of The Day: “Let’s Have An Open Forum!”

I have not read all of the contributions to last night’s Open Forum (my Zoom presentation went fine, by the way; I hate it), but I was pointed to this comment, by Humble Talent, by many, and they were right. Heck, it earned the honor just by the sentence, “I feel like more and more, we find ourselves an army of hammers in search of nails.”

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on honesty, politics, and the state of things, from “Let’s Have An Open Forum!“:

“If everyone woke up one day and found themselves unable to lie, the Soviet Union would fall by noon.”

—-Unknown (Although I always attributed it to Solzhenitsyn, if anyone knows who said this, I’d appreciate the assist)

I feel like more and more, we find ourselves an army of hammers in search of nails. Every problem, every emergency, every poorly worded tweet, is taken as an opportunity to circle the wagons and hammer down hard on prior positions in what can only be described as a masturbatory exercise of a scale never before seen.

One of the great lessons in my young life was that even when people have essentially the same access to information, different people will put that information through different filters, and can come up with *wildly* different takes from that information… They aren’t *necessarily* being dishonest, they could merely be wrong, or biased, or stupid… Never discount stupid… And it’s important to treat those arguments as if they were genuine statements of belief and no matter how wrong, biased, or stupid the argument might be, if the point is to convince someone to listen to you, then you have to approach the conversation with a basic respect for the other person, and not immediately blast their argument. I’m not always good at that. It’s a personal flaw.

I’ve realized that my argumentation has shifted, and I don’t know if it’s a function of the weariness I feel towards political gamesmanship right now, or if it’s just the right response to the kind of arguments I’m facing, but I find myself more often than not repeating what someone has just said to me, while paraphrasing it for clarity or removing euphemisms and asking “Do you really believe that?” Continue reading

What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme”

Not for the first time, a commenter has done a more thorough job fisking a problematical statement that I have. Actually, I didn’t even try to dissect the memed screed below…

…I  asked whether it was truly unethical, or just signature significance for an arrogant political correctness junkie.  Ryan Harkins took on the greater challenge, and as usual, did a superb job.

Here is Ryan’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme…

Today I am wearing a shirt that reads:

Inconceivable. Adj.
1. Not capable of being imagined or grasped.
2. Not what you think it means.

The problem with memes like the above is that it is disingenuous. What do you mean by love? Do you mean philia? Eros? Caritas? Squishy feel-goodness, for which I don’t know a Latin equivalent? In general, especially given what I’ve observed of the people who post such memes, I don’t think “love” means what they think it means. I certainly don’t think they see love as selflessly willing the good of the other, but maybe that’s because I’m cynical and see this meme as not willing the good of someone else, but trying to proclaim one’s own virtue.

What is meant by inclusion? Is there nothing someone could ever do to warrant exclusion? Or is there a little asterisk pointing one to the fine print, where we don’t include the scum of the earth, like religious white men, sex offenders, and Trump supporters?

I don’t have much to say about empathy or compassion. Equality always begs the question: “Equal how?” Because again, people keep using that word, and I do not think it means what they think it means. Equal before the law? Equal in dignity? Equal in socioeconomic status? Equal in success? Or how about created equally, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including (but not limited to) life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I have no problem with dignity, but what about diversity and community? There is unavoidable tension in the community when there is diversity. We might not like that fact, but it is there. As soon as you have two people of different opinions in the room, there is tension, and by and large what we’ve seen is that people are less and less tolerant of tension. I wouldn’t say they are less tolerant of differences of opinion, as long as those opinions keep to themselves and don’t bother other people. It is the tension that people are finding unbearable. Maybe it is because we are no longer equipped to have our opinions or viewpoints challenged. But I also have a hard time believing anyone believes in community, when so many are nose down I electronics (as I am as I write this) and all my friends belong to the same echo chamber as myself. Continue reading

Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme

I have a long-time friend whose spouse has the above Facebook meme as a social media avatar. As a result, I have serious reservations about having any further interaction with either of them.

Once again, I am bedeviled by the phenomenon of public virtue-signaling, a non-virus epidemic that mostly manifests itself among smug progressives. There is no question in my mind that such ostentatious declarations are obnoxious and nausea-inducing, and thus offensive. But are they unethical?

The last time I addressed this issue was when these signs, mercifully short-lived, starting popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Then, I see that I was adamant, writing in part, Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Week: James Carville

“Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack.“That’s exactly who the fuck I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kinda like it! At least I’m not a communist!”

Political consultant and long-time Clinton acolyte James Carville on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby.

You have to love this. Yes, I think it’s a remarkably ethical statement from Carville. He is, unlike so many of his fellow operatives and strategists, not pretending to be someone and something he isn’t. He has delivered welcome honesty where we almost never receive it. Carville is loyal to those who pay him, like a lawyer, like lobbyists, like so many members of Congress. His candor also solved the long-time mystery (to some) of how the supposedly progressive Clintonista could be happily married to Mary Matalin, a prominent Republican strategist and mouthpiece. Now we know: he and she are true soul mates in cynical Washington. Their mutual missions are facilitating political warfare and skulduggery, for pieces of silver. The honesty is so refreshing!

And Bernie is a Communist. The public needs to know it, and cheers to Carville for ripping off the bandaid.

Comment Of The Day: “Titanic Ethics”

Michael West has written a remarkable Comment of the Day in several respects. For one thing, it is a comment on a post that is almost eight years old, a record for Ethics Alarms. For another, he becomes the first commenter to comment on the same post under two different screen names. Finally, there is the fact that his point is one with historic validity, yet seldom if ever mentioned by the many critics of James Cameron’s  epic yet intermittently ridiculous film, including me. Follow the tag: there are a lot of  references to “Titanic” here.

One note in prelude to Michael’s essay: the cruel misrepresentation he alludes to can be partially laid at the now dead feet of Walter Lord, who wrote the influential and popular account of the Titanic’s sinking, “A Night To Remember.” It is an excellent account, but he decided to use Charles John Joughin as comic relief, and the  movies, including the one based on his book, distorted his portrayal, which itself seems to have been unfair.

Here is Michael West’s Comment of the Day on the 2012 post, “Titanic Ethics”

How about every Titanic movie’s depiction of Charles John Joughin?

Verdict: Unethical.

Joughin was the lead baker on board the Titanic. Built big and stout as a bull according to most who met him.

When he first heard the Titanic was going to go down, on his own initiative, he rallied the baking crew to gather what bread they could to distribute ample loaves to every lifeboat anticipating they may be afloat for awhile before rescue — something like 40 pounds of bread per boat. Several witnesses and his own testimony recount that he took multiple trips to help guide passengers from below decks up to the boat deck. He proceeded to a lifeboat, which he had been earlier commanded to be a crewman for (either tilling it or rowing, I’m not sure), only to discover another crewman had taken his spot. He didn’t protest, though he could have, so he helped load that boat and then went back to find more passengers below decks. After realizing there’d not be enough life boats and that many people would have to swim for it, he began to throw as many deck chairs into the water as he could as flotation devices, later he mentioned he hoped he could possibly find one of them after the ship went under. When the ship made its final plunge, he found himself standing on the back of the Titanic riding it into the icy waves. In the water, which was so cold, most people died of hypothermia within fifteen minutes…most much sooner than that, Joughin treaded water and swam for a remarkable one and a half to two hours before finding the upside-down collapsible commanded by Lightoller. Naturally, given Joughin’s luck thus far, the collapsible had no more standing room, so he had to float to the side for a bit longer before another lifeboat came by and picked him up. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Now THIS Is A Level 8 Apology!”

In this concise but rich Comment of the Day, Isaac takes on the challenge of re-writing the wildly inadequate and unconvincing apology offered by the Catholic priest who was pressured to recant his negative comments about Islam in a Sunday service.

The apology offered three days later by the chastened priest, Fr.Nick VanDenBroeke:

My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.

 

Here is Isaac’s alternative, his Comment of the Day on the post, “Now THIS Is A Level 8 Apology!”Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Level 8 Apology!

I’d consider a new head-shot, Father.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, a Level 8 apology, among the worst, is described as “A forced apology for a rightful or legitimate act, in capitulation to bullying, fear, threats, desperation or other coercion.”

Lonsdale, Minnesota priest Nick VanDenBroeke provided one of the finest—well, that’s not the right word since such apologies are insincere and indications of hypocrisy and cowardice, but you know what I mean—examples of such apologies after he was excoriated for saying in a sermon on immigration,

Both as Americans and Christians we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks entry into America should be treated the same. I believe it’s essential to consider the religion and world view of immigrants or refugees more specifically we should not allow large numbers of Muslims asylum or immigration into our country. Islam is the greatest threat in the world both to Christianity and to America – of course there are peaceful Muslims, absolutely, but the religion as a religion and as an ideology and world view it is contrary to Christ and America.

I am not saying we hate Muslims, I am absolutely not saying that, they are people created out of love by God just as each one of us is. But while we certainly don’t hate them as people we must oppose their religion and world view.  And if we want to protect our great country, not only as a Christian nation but also as the land of the free then we must oppose the immigration of Muslims, that’s an example of keeping bad ideas out of the country that we have the right to do as a sovereign nation.

I’m not a hater for saying this I’m not saying something anti-Christian because the religion is anti-Christian. I’m simply a realist to acknowledge that fact, they are the greatest threat to Christianity and America and we need to recognize that fact and our laws of immigration need to reflect that.

Continue reading

Movie Flop Ethics, Part I: “Richard Jewell” And The Alleged ‘Female Reporter Trading Sex For Scoops’ Smear

The two big flops among movies that opened last weekend were director Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” and “Black Christmas,” the second attempt to re-boot the 1976 slasher cult film. Both disasters have ethics lessons to teach, or not teach. Let’s look at Clint’s movie first.

“Richard Jewell” made lass that $4.5 million in its first weekend, and has also been snubbed by the various year-end awards. It is based on the now mostly forgotten  story of how Jewell, initially hailed as a hero for his part in foiling the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing plot,  was falsely accused  of complicity by local law enforcement, the FBI, and the news media. Conservative outlets loved the film, but the other side of the divide focused on a subplot, as the film’s screenplay  suggested that a named Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter, now deceased,  used sex to persuade a source to break the story.  The Journal Constitution has been attacking the film, denying that Kathy Scruggs would ever used he body to get a scoop. Her colleagues, friends and  family all insist that she would not have slept with a source, and reporters around the country circled the metaphorical wagons to proclaim they were shocked–shocked!—that anyone would even suggest such a thing. Jeffrey Young, senior reporter for HuffPost tweeted,  “The lazy, offensive, shitty way screenwriters so often treat female journalists infuriates me. Depicting women using sex to get stories is disgusting and disrespectful. It’s also hacky as hell. I was planning to see this movie but not anymore.’ Melissa Gomez of the Los Angeles Times wrote,  “Hollywood has, for a long time, portrayed female journalists as sleeping with sources to do their job. It’s so deeply wrong, yet they continue to do it. Disappointing that they would apply this tired and sexist trope about Kathy Scruggs, a real reporter.’ Susan Fowler, an opinion editor at the New York Times tweeted “The whole “female journalist sleeps with a source for a scoop” trope doesn’t even make any sense…”

This would be damning, except that while it may not be standard practice, there are plenty of examples of female journalists doing exactly what Eastwood’s film suggests.  Last year the Times—yes, Susan Fowler’s paper—reported on the three-year affair between  Times reporter Ali Watkins and James Wolfe, senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a regular source for her stories. In October,  an employee of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested for leaking classified material to two reporters, and he was involved in a romantic relationship with one of them. Both reporters are still employed by their respective news organizations, the  Times and CNBC, so its hard to argue that sex-for-scoops is being strongly discouraged.

Continue reading