Jennifer Williams’ Three Questions

Harpers’ “anti-cancel culture” letter, discussed here was instructive, but not in the manner that its sponsors intended. It excluded most conservatives (except Stockholm Syndrome types like David Brooks) and all of those who had been damaged by progressive cancel-mobs, making the exercise suspect as Left-wing grandstanding. Worse, an alarming number of progressives who didn’t sign the letter expressed disappointment that others did, because they fervently believe that expressing opinions that vary from woke cant should be punished, and that (though they won’t come right out and say it) free expression is undesirable. Hate speech, you know—makes people feel “unsafe” to have to associate with the unenlightened.

For some reason the criticism centered on Vox, the website begun by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein when pretending to be anything but a partisan shill became  too much for him. Vox is as biased leftward as Breitbart is biased in the other direction, which is why I seldom use, and never trust, either. Several Vox employees publicly objected to the fact that their colleague Matt Yglesias signed the letter, apparently forgetting that Yglesias, “by any means necessary” fan that he is, once admitted.

In response to the uproar, senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams tweeted,

What a fascinating set of ethics questions!

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Question #2, the one Williams answers, is apparently not as obvious as she seems to think it is. Tufts University history lecturer Kerri Greenidge demanded  to have her name  removed from the list of signers, claiming that her name  was used without her knowledge or consent. “I do not endorse this @ Harpers letter,” Prof. Greenidge tweeted. “I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction.” The Tufts historian’s sisters, novelist and New York Times opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge and playwright Kirsten Greenidge also asserted  that Kerri was included among the signatories without her consent or knowledge.

Prof. Greenidge was lying—to the public, and to her family. Harper’s quickly produced an email exchange from late June in which Greenidge agreed to sign. “Yes, I will add my signature. It reads well,” Greenidge wrote from her Tufts email address. “Let me know what more you need from me.”

“Oh, just a promise that you won’t cave like a wet cardboard box and start blaming us if some of your progressive pals and family members complain, I guess,” is what Harper’s should have responded. Continue reading

Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

In Harpers, a grab-bag of pundits, artists, has-beens and assorted progressives/liberals were persuaded to sign an open letter protesting the “cancel culture” and bemoaning its suffocating effect on free expression and debate.

Tangent: Lots of people wrote that they didn’t recognize most of the names. I know 28 of them, and several, like Ron Sullivan, Emily Yoffe, and Dahlia Lithwick, have been subjects of posts here. Not only that, one signer is a college classmate (Nadine Strossen) and another, Diedre McCloskey, was a next door neighbor when I lived with my parents in Arlington, Mass.)

“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement,” the epistle says in part.

Apparently allowing prominent conservatives to sign the letter was considered “divisive,” or the organizers could only get the leftists to join in if the righties were excluded. This restriction of expression in a letter about censorship undercuts the message, don’t you think? To make sure no dedicated conservatives agitated to sign, the letter cleverly included this poison pill:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing, Continue reading

Yes, Some Things Are Worse Than Racism, Part 2: The Betrayal Of Daniel Miller

This seems like a propitious time to keep reminding people, especially those who are currently engaged in trying to tear up the culture and the nation into little pieces without a clue about what to do next,  that some things are worse than racism. Lots of things, actually. At some point, we will have to have this debate and that truth must be established.

In ethics, we judge conduct, not thoughts, beliefs, desires and even words, if they are not truly linked to unethical conduct. “Cancelling” people based on past racist or bigoted sentiments that do not seem to have been consistent with later conduct is unfair and  oppressive. The current movement to punish American citizens based on their failure to conform mandated thoughts and specific beliefs is at its core totalitarian, and is doomed to failure, or worse, success.

Playwright Arthur Miller committed one of the most nauseating acts of selfishness, cruelty and betrayal imaginable, but he wrote some of the most ethically resonant dramas in the American theatrical canon: “Death of Salesman,” “The Crucible,” ‘All My Sons,” “A View From the Bridge,” “The Price.” More than any other U.S. playwright, indeed writer in any genre, Miller earned a reputation as the culture’s herald of morality.  When he died in 2005, Miller was celebrated as perhaps our greatest playwright (he isn’t, but he’s certainly near the top.) He was also lionized as a lifetime ethics hero, in particularly because of his refusal to “name names” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. His battle with HUAC caused  Miller to be convicted of contempt of Congress in May 1957, when he was sentenced to prison sentence, fined, blacklisted, and forced to surrender his  passport.

Then, two years after the obituaries and tributes The Atlantic magazine revealed a horrible secret— not a skeleton in Miller’s closet, but a living, breathing, son.

Miller married the last of his wives, photographer Inge Morath (she came after Marilyn Monroe) in February, 1962.  The first of the couple’s  two children, Rebecca, was born on September 15, 1962. Their son, Daniel, was born  in November 1966.  Miller was excited about the birth until doctors diagnosed Daniel as having  Down syndrome. Against his wife’s wishes—she couldn’t have objected too strenuously— Daniel’s famous father sent the newborn to a home for infants in New York City within days of his birth, then four years later  to Southbury Training School, then one of two Connecticut institutions for the mentally challenged. There Daniel stayed until he was 17. Of that place, The Atlantic’s Suzanna Andrews wrote,

By the early 1970s, however, around the time Arthur Miller put his son there, Southbury was understaffed and overcrowded. It had nearly 2,300 residents, including children, living in rooms with 30 to 40 beds. Many of the children wore diapers, because there weren’t enough employees to toilet-train them. During the day, they sat in front of blaring TVs tuned to whatever show the staff wanted to watch. The most disabled children were left lying on mats on the floor, sometimes covered with nothing but a sheet. “In the wards you had people screaming, banging their heads against the wall, and taking their clothes off,” says David Shaw, a leading Connecticut disability lawyer. “It was awful.”

One observer reported that the institute reminded him of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

However, somehow the word got to the Detroit Archdiocese, where it was deemed that her same-sex marriage made her morally unfit to keep her job. On June 12  she received an email reading,  “The Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment.”

The blow came  just three days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether the ruling will apply to religious organizations is the subject of other cases before the Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs Morrissey-Berru, a case about whether teachers at private, religious schools are subject to the exception in the Civil Rights Act.

Gonda says that her Catholic mentors and employers always modeled Pope Francis’s compassionate and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. She was never shunned for being gay, nor after her 2011 marriage to  Kirsti Reeve, 51. (That’s Kristi on the left, Terry on the right.) Terry told an interviewer that she is certain the Church believes “they’re doing the right thing — they’re trying to protect the church.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2020: Dumb And Dumber

Good morning, I guess.

It is clear, if it wasn’t already, that everything hinges on whether the American public is as stupid and inattentive as those seeking to manipulate it think it is.

1. Mobs? What mobs? I just listed to CNN’s health expert, Dr. Gupta, list the reasons there has been a surge in Wuhan virus cases. Notably absent from his list were the mass, no social distancing demonstrations/protests/riots that began two weeks ago as a prominent part of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. These, as you may recall, were largely supported by the health experts (though I don’t have a record of Gupta being among them) as they apparently decided that Black Lives Matter matters more than all the black lives that would be put in danger by ignoring the safety measures we shut down the country to install.

I also have yet to read a single news story about the new cases of the virus that highlights the completely predictable effect of the mobs, which are still roaming, as a factor in the so-called “surge,” though I can’t check everything.

Is the news media really certain that if they don’t report this connection, it will never occur to most of the public? I’m already reading accusations that opening up the states is “racist” because of the evidence that African-Americans have contracted the virus and died from it at a higher rate than the rest of the public. By that logic, encouraging the mobs of George Floyd protesters was also racist.

To re-phrase Wilford Brimley from his great scene in “Absence of Malice”: “American Public, are you that dumb?” So far, it seems so. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethical Quote, Fair Quote, Unethical Quote, Share Quote…”

Humble Talent was moved by the ongoing disgrace of the Washington Post’s handling of the two-year old “scandal” involving an ill-designed  Megyn Kelly costume to consider the The Society for Professional Journalism’s (SPJ) Code of Ethics, which you can (and ought to) read here.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethical Quote, Fair Quote, Unethical Quote, Share Quote…”:

The Society for Professional Journalism’s (SPJ) Code of Ethics. Believe it or not, it’s actually a pretty good document. If journalists actually even pretended to give it lip service, I think we’d all be better off. A couple of choice snippets (although, really, read the whole thing);

Principle 1: SEEK TRUTH AND REPORT IT (If only).

  • Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
  • Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
  • Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant

Principle 2: MINIMIZE HARM (This seems counter-intuitive given the weaponisation of journalism, but que sera sera)

  • Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
  • Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.

Principle 3: ACT INDEPENDENTLY

  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility

Principle 4: BE ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT (HAHAHAHAHahahahahahahaha!)

  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”

Having just banned a commenter for a useless and obnoxious comment on this same post, it it is a wonderful tonic to be able to post  JutGory’s masterful Comment of the Day critiquing the Minnesota Twin’s statement explaining their removal of Cal Griffith’s statue. It is a fine fisking of the kind of disingenuous babble we  have been getting from organizations of late.

The poll on Cal’s statue so far:

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part Two”:

Jack: “Taking all of that together, I believe that the Twins are justified in taking down Griffith’s statue, and that it would have been unethical for the team not to.”

Apart from the whole statue-removing thing, here is my problem with this:

Their statement said:

“When we opened Target Field in 2010 in conjunction wit h our 50th season in Minnesota, we were excited and proud to welcome fans to our ‘forever ballpark.’”

Fair enough. Good start. Then:

As such, we wanted to pay permanent tribute to those figures and moments that helped shape the first half-century of Minnesota Twins baseball.

PERMANENT. That is a strong word. But, that is what they intended. Permanent Tribute.

– including a statue of Calvin Griffith, our former owner and the man responsible for moving the franchise here in 1961.

Including the man who moved them to Minnesota. Seems fitting. But for him, they wouldn’t have moved to Minnesota. And, why did he move the franchise? Because of the same racist attitudes that they condemn.

“We cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca in 1978.”

I see. So, the permanent tribute was made while ignoring the racist comments you knew about. Continue reading

Nearing The Abyss: The Democrats, “The Resistance” And The Media Cheer On Campaign Sabotage

Brian looks pleased, doesn’t he?

What Ethics Alarms terms the Axis of Unethical Conduct or AUC—the alliance of the Democratic Party, “the resistance” and the mainstream news media—reached a new low in hostility to democracy and  new high in hypocrisy yesterday after it was confirmed that the turnout for President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa had been undermined by Nixon-style “dirty tricks.”

Yesterday morning, the front page of the Times was gloating over the surprisingly small audience for the President. Written by a team including staff Trump assassin Maggie Haberman,  the story, which yesterday had a headline stating that the rally “sputtered” and on line says it “fizzled,” said in part, “The weakness of Mr. Trump’s drawing power and political skills, in a state that voted for him overwhelmingly and in a format that he favors, raised new questions about his electoral prospects for a second term at a time when his poll numbers were already falling.” It quickly became clear that there were sinister factors at work, but the reporters allowed confirmation bias to suppress what should have been an automatic instinct: “Gee, what could have caused this?” Instead, they went with an analysis based on their desires and hostility to the President, and presented readers with fake news.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias.

It soon became clear that Tik-Tok and K-Pop users, mostly teenagers, reserved hundreds of tickets for the rally, without any intention of showing up. Brian Stelter, CNN’s risible “media watchdog,” happily reported Sunday morning,

“And it seems that one of the other reasons why there were so many empty seats is a no-show protest. A no-show protest. This all started with a video on TikTok created by Mary Jo Laupp, who is effectively being called a ‘TikTok grandma.’ So, she made a video more than a week ago urging viewers to go to Trump’s site, sign up to attend the rally, but pointedly not show up at the rally. And look, it did seem to work to some degree. We don’t know exactly how well but Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale was out there talking about how many people were signing up…..

In a tweet, Parscale had announced that there had been 800,000 requests for tickets.

Stelter then rewarded the organizer of this operation by bringing her on his show to interview. Her rationalization for the dirty trick was that black activists were angry because the President had scheduled his rally on the same week as “Juneteenth,” that revered annual holiday that virtually no one, including CNN, had ever talked about before the George Floyd Freakout. Continue reading

Researchers Claim That Supporting Free Speech Is A Marker Of Intelligence. Whatever That Means.

I bet a really smart person wrote this. Maybe Chris Cuomo!

A group of studies reported today supposedly demonstrate that  support free speech is strongly  correlated with intelligence and “cognitive ability.”

Observations:

  • If true, there sure are a lot of unintelligent people taking control of society and the culture right now.
  • The study’s definition of intelligence is based on IQ scores, which are blunt measures of intelligence at best. Since it is well-known that the inventor of IQ scores violently objected to the  test being used to measure above average intelligence when the device was designed to measure sub-normal cognitive ability, the fair definition of what the IQ test measures is that it measures what the IQ  test measures. I spend much of every day reading allegedly brilliant people’s astounding opinions and  analysis on every topic imaginable.  They may have high IQ’s, but their reasoning is derailed by ideology, ego, bias and rationalizations. One of the many revelations I have come to accept over the years is that intelligence is an unfathomably complex concept, and I understand it less today than I thought I did  when I was 18.
  • Worse than the dubious non-definition of “cognitive ability” is the vagueness of “free speech.” Is someone  supportive of “free speech” when they support the  punishment for someone daring to utter an opinion that doesn’t conform to mob cant as shunning, firing, and perpetual hostility? What about those cognitively gifted individuals who have decided that “hate speech,” as they define it, of course, isn’t covered by the freedom of speech? The smart people who run the Washington Post decided to doxx a woman who wore a politically incorrect Halloween costume at a private party two years ago . They claim that  “democracy dies in darkness,” which is lip service to free speech. Do we judge them on their stated beliefs , or their actions? How does the study  categorize those intelligent people who want to make it as difficult as possible for those they disagree with to have their opinions read and heard, by persuading social media to ban or block them, for example? How many people, because they are so darn smart, use lawyerly distinctions to justify non-government censorship as not offensive to “free speech” as defined in the Constitution?
  • At least the researchers have the integrity to state their bias up front: “We expected that people with higher cognitive abilities would be more inclined to embrace the open exchange of ideas, wherein viewpoints can be scrutinized and challenged in order to foster informed decision making and knowledge.” This is confirmation bias, and the foe of any reliable research. What a surprise: they expected their research to find that intelligence correlated with belief in “free speech,” and it did! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2020: “Juneteenth” Edition

Good morning!

1. About “Juneteenth”: I confess: I had never heard of Juneteenth before this year, or at least never took note of it or what the day signifies. I am certain that I never heard the term while I was living in Massachusetts. It would have helped, in my case, if the unofficial holiday (except in Texas, where the event commemorated actually occurred, the freeing of the last slaves in America, and it is a state holiday) had a label that didn’t remind me of so many Madison Avenue gimmick labels and fad word mash-ups like “frenemy” or “momtrepreneur.” “Juneteenth” sounds to me like a summer music festival.

The end of slavery is certainly a legitimate subject for a new paid Federal holiday (as well as many others). Getting the holiday established as part of the George Floyd Freakout white guilting strategy cheapens it, I think, placing the holiday in the same pandering package with HBO Max pulling “Gone  With The Wind” or the University of Florida  banning the “Gator Bait” cheer. As with so much else going on, I am concerned that this will exacerbate rather than ameliorate racial tensions, with an official nation-wide “Juneteeth” having the effect of making July 4th a “white” holiday.

2. Deceitful withdrawal of the decade? Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose prospects for being named Joe Biden’s running mate vanished as soon as it was publicized that she was responsible for Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin not being prosecuted for earlier claims of police misconduct, grandly announced that she had called Biden and withdrawn her name from consideration, an amusing variation on “You can’t fire me, I quit!  “America must seize on the moment and I truly believe — as I actually told the VP last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last night. “And there are so many incredible, qualified women. But if you wanna heal this nation right now, my party yes, but our nation, this is a helluva way to do it.”

No, choosing a Vice-President purely on the basis of gender and color is not a “helluva way” to run a country, but that’s progressivism and the Democratic Party in 2020: group identity matters, actual skill and qualifications don’t. (And if there are so many “incredible, qualified women, why isn’t Biden considering any of them?) Ann Althouse writes, amusingly,

So what I hear in her effort at a high-minded statement is an undercutting of the other women who are in the running. First, Elizabeth Warren — who is not a woman of color except in her memory of younger days when family lore and a desire to identify were enough. Why step on her chances, Amy? Second, all the various black women who are in the running. Amy is ensuring that when one of them is picked, everyone will believe they were picked because of their race.

Because whoever it is will have been picked because of her race and gender! Klobuchar isn’t signaling anything that everyone paying attention hadn’t figured out months ago. As for Warren, I have never believed that the Democrats would be so foolish as to have two over-70 politicians on the ticket. Continue reading