Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle

“Oops! Sorry.”

 

A commenter yesterday inquired about the Ethics Alarms position regarding efforts to punish participants at white nationalist rallies by publishing their photos on Facebook and other social media, presumably to help get them fired.

I’ll begin the analysis with the Naked Teacher Principle, explored in its many variations on Ethics Alarms, which states,

“A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.”

The same general reasoning would apply to a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who placed videos or photos of himself or herself demonstrating in favor of racist causes, or giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute, on social media. Even a superb teacher, and one who never exhibited any racial bias at all, would be rendered untrustworthy by such photographs. A neo-Nazi has a right to his or her political views, but those views cannot interfere with the individual’s ability to do a job.

No, I wouldn’t trust a Klan member, a neo-Nazi or a white nationalist to teach my child.

The same would apply to social media posts, and the exact analogy are the college professors who have recently found themselves enmeshed in controversies by declaring on Twitter or Facebook that white people should be killed, that males are a social contagion, or similar bigoted sentiments. These teachers should be separated from their students, and many, though not all, have been. They are, however, publicizing themselves, as well as their bigoted views. Like the naked teachers who posed on-line, they are accountable for the images they project and publish, and how those images affect present and future employees.

However, this is different:

Thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

The activity described is a direct effort to punish people for  their opinions expressed through legal means. It is in the same unethical category as sending private e-mails that reflect badly on former lovers through social media, or using a questionable tweet to destroy the life and career of the tweeter. This kind of  “amateur sleuthing”  as the Times whitewashes the practice, is vicious, destructive, reckless, unfair, and a Golden Rule breach.

I have already pointed out that I might be tempted  join a demonstration against the unethical airbrushing of history that taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue in his home state represents. If I were an idiot (but not a bigot), and didn’t recognize that the white nationalists were just exploiting the General’s memory for their own agenda, I might have been in that group of Tiki torch marchers. A photograph of me marching with a bunch of Klansman and neo-Nazis would hardly be good for my ethics business, though I would be completely innocent of racist views.

The “amateur sleuths” also are not always correct (being amateurs, after all) , as well as being self-righteous, vicious, and opponents of free speech. The Times describes that fate of a professor, Kyle Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, and who resembled another man caught in a photo marching with the racists. Quinn was attacked on Twitter and Instagram, and social media demanded that he be fired, accused him of racism, and posted his home address online.

Nice.

Be proud, you vicious social justice warriors! Continue reading

The Twittercide Of David Leavitt

A fatal terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert? Funny!

Social media and multiple popular blogs and websites are flaming with hate directed at David Leavitt, a freelance writer who didn’t get his annual ethics alarms maintenance performed and is now paying the price. Perceiving himself as a mad wag,  Leavitt took to Twitter for some levity following the horrifying event described in this lead from the BBC:

“Twenty-two people, including an eight-year-old girl, have been killed and 59 were injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.”

Let me rephrase what I wrote before: Leavitt’s ethics alarms were not merely badly serviced, they had fallen apart into rusty chunks. He also hadn’t been paying attention to the world around him: did he miss the fate of Justine Sacco, who tweeted a joke to her friends that the cyber-mob decided was racist (though it wasn’t) as she boarded a plane, and by the time she had landed found that she had lost her job and become a national pariah? Had he not noticed that the Aflac duck had a different quack in 2011 after comic Gilbert Gottfried tweeted a series of jokes about the tsunami that devastated Japan and was promptly fired from what Gottfried had called the greatest gig in the world?

Either he had been practicing his craft (“Freelance Writer. CBS, AXS, Yahoo!, Examiner, & etc. I review #Games #Tech #Fashion #Travel. Casual #MTG #Twitch streamer”) from a cave, or he is an idiot, but in either case, he decided to tweet this…

then this…

Somebody apparently grabbed Leavitt and shook him hard (but not hard enough) as his tweets went viral and he was on the way to becoming the latest Justine. A few hours later he tweeted “Too soon?” and this apology:

Too late. HisCBS PR disowned him;  AXS sent his contribution down the memory hole; so did Yahoo. Boston’s WBZ, which had employed Leavitt, issued a statement condemning his jokes and saying that he was not an employee. Publications like Mother Jones, the New York Daily News,  Heat Street and The Daily Mail had placed essays attacking him on their websites. The reaction by British websites and news organization was even more intense. David Leavitt can forget about vacationing in the United Kingdom. Ever.

Observations:

1.  Nobody deserves to have their life destroyed over two tweets. Let me quote at length what I wrote about the Justine Sacco’s cyber mob, because it applies with equal force to Leavitt: Continue reading

Social Media Ethics Conundrum: What Is The Fair, Objective, Rational Response To This?

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A libertarian website, curious as to how objectively Twitter enforces its standards, registered a complaint about the tweet on the left, and receiving the circled response, sent the tweet on the right, with Twitter responding to a complaint by banning the account.

How should fair, ethical people respond to this?

I do not see the website’s investigation, or this post, for that matter, as partisan or ideologically slanted in any way. A major social media platform used by government agencies, the President Elect, journalists, pundits, and news organizations as well as celebrities, scholars and average members of the public, has a duty commensurate with its power and influence. It can be politically biased and manipulative of public opinion, it can tilt its content to reflect particular interests, policies, cultural attitudes and agendas, but it is unethical for it to do so, particularly when it claims it does not do so.

This is smoking gun proof that Twitter is biased, censoring what it doesn’t like from people and groups it doesn’t like while allowing identical tweets from people and groups it feels an alliance to. It is a double standard. Now what?

Should fair, ethical people continue to use an organization that abuses its influence and trust like that? I use twitter, though only to send out links to Ethics Alarms posts. Am I ethically obligated to stop doing that? Should a non-left biased counterpart to Twitter take away half its business? Well, as we have learned from Fox News vs. the left-leaning mainstream media, competing media entities with off-setting biases still won’t supply what is needed, which is fair, trustworthy and reliable reporting. Continue reading

The Unethical Web-Shaming Destruction Of Holly Jones

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“I will never go back to this location for New Year’s Eve!!!” young Holly Jones ranted on an Indianapolis bar and restaurant’s Facebook page. “After the way we were treated when we spent $700+ and having our meal ruined by watching a dead person being wheeled out from an overdose my night has been ruined!” The angry post accused the evening’s restaurant manager of rudeness, the party’s waitress of profanity and the establishment itself of inattention.

After a sharp on-line rebuttal by the restaurant, the Web Furies were unleashed. Jones’ post became the latest web-shaming catalyst and an invitation to join a cyber-mob where fun could be had by all turning an ordinary jerk into a national villain. Lots of people signed up. The mob tracked down Jones and bombarded her own Facebook page with hate—she took the page down—then moved on to the salon where she worked as a hairdresser, threatening a boycott unless it fired Jones.

So it did.

These exercises in vicious web shaming can be ranked along an ethics spectrum. At the most unethical end is the destruction of Justine Sacco, who had her legitimate marketing career destroyed by social media’s  hysterical over-reaction to a self-deprecating, politically incorrect tweet. Now she works promoting a fantasy sports gambling website, a sleazy enterprise that entices chumps into losing serious cash with a business model derived from internet poker—she not only had her life derailed, she was corrupted too.

At the other end is Adam Smith, the one-time executive who wrecked his own career, with the help of another cyber-mob, by proudly posting a video of himself abusing an innocent Chic-fil-A  employee because Smith didn’t like her boss’s objections to gay marriage.  Somewhere between the two is Lindsay Stone, who lost her job by posting a photo showing her pretending–she later said— to scream at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while flipping the bird at the “Silence and Respect” sign.

The distance between Smith and Jones is the difference between words and conduct. Smith’s video showed him abusing a young woman, and his posting of the video indicated that he saw nothing wrong with it. Jones, in contrast, did nothing, other than prove herself to be, at least at the moment she posted her rant, an utter jerk. Everyone along the spectrum, however, including Jones, were excessively and unjustly harmed by the web-shaming  campaign against them. Last I checked, Smith was unemployed and destitute three years after his episode of atrocious judgment.

In the current case, the cyber-mob forcing Holly’s employer to fire her is ethically worse, by far, than anything she can reasonably be accused of doing by posting her criticism of the restaurant. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: What’s Fair Punishment For The Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante?

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I previously wrote about Adam M. Smith, the ex-CFO of  a Tucson medical supplies manufacturer who filmed himself dressing down a Chick-fil-A drive-in employee and placed the video on YouTube. I said in part…

“He’s a vile bully and a jerk, who thinks it appropriate to embarrass and abuse an innocent employee of a restaurant because he happens not to agree with the politics and moral positions of the company’s owner…The video served to alert millions to beware of this rude, rabid and self-righteous champion of gay rights, who equates faith-based advocacy for the current law of the United States of America with “hate.”

I was more accurate than I knew. Now we learn that since that August, 2012 fiasco which cost him his job, Mr. Smith has fallen on hard times. His self-posted indictment of his own character has poisoned his reputation and career. When he found a new job, he was later fired for not alerting his employers about the incident. When he has raised the video to potential employers, they have declined to hire him. Where he was once earning a six-figure salary, had $1 million in stock options, and lived in a stylish home, he now lives in an RV with his wife and four children, and is existing on public assistance.

It all sounds like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is…

Is Adam M. Smith the victim of excessive social media punishment for one ill-considered act?

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: If There Is Going To Be A Racial Double Standard For Bigoted Statements, Can We Please At Least Know What It Is?

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Item: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA Clippers, while speaking with his mistress/girl friend/ escort in the bedroom, announces that he doesn’t want her bringing black men to Clippers games. In the process, he does not say anything specifically derogatory about African- Americans. He believes the statement is private, and that he is talking to someone he could trust.He was wrong. A recording of the conversation was leaked to the press, and Sterling has been roundly vilified as a vile racist, threatened with a boycott by the players, mostly African-American, in the NBA, fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the game.

Item: Via Mike Wise, Washington Post sports writer—

“Following Wednesday’s Pacers-Wizards game in Indianapolis, during the time when NBA rules permit media members to be present, the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist. Afterward, I complained on Twitter that if Commissioner Adam Silver truly wants an inclusive league, he ought to address this (common) practice.”

Result: Wise, who is white, was attacked as a racist. What NBA players listen to in the locker room is none of his business, he is told (but what Donal Sterling says in his bed room is their business.) The NBA has done, and is expected to do, nothing.

Item: Appearing on ESPN where he is a commentator, Charles Barkley, former NBA star (and an African-American), decided to deride the women of San Antonio, Texas as fat. “There’s some big ‘ol women down there,” said Barkley. “That’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers.” He added, “Victoria is definitely a secret. They can’t wear no Victoria’s Secret down there.” A spokesperson for a fat acceptance group protested:

“Making slurs about body size is just as offensive as making comments about body color. One would think being a black man, he’d be more sensitive to having his physical body criticized. It’s totally out of line. He should absolutely apologize.”

Barkley not only refused to apologize, but defiantly challenged anyone objecting to his remarks, jokes or future comments to “change the channel.”  Nobody expects Barkley to suffer any consequences from this series of events.

Item: In 2007, talk show provocateur Don Imus got into a facetious discussion with a broadcast team member about how te women’s basket ball team from Rutgers was “rough looking” and had some “nappy-looking ho’s.” He also referenced Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and the film’s “Jigaboos vs.  Wannabes.” Imus apologized profusely, pronouncing the exchange inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid. Under pressure from various civil rights groups,  WFAN, which produced his show, fired Imus, who has never regained his previous prominence.

Item: In 2013, media professional Justine Sacco tweeted a race-based joke before boarding a plane to Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” A furious cyber mob condemned her as a racist, and demanded her punishment. When she landed in Africa, she learned that she had  been fired.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

What the hell is going on here?

Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Three)

Jill-Greenberg

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Photographer Jill Greenberg, whose art requires parents to make their children cry. Runner-up: Peeping Tom photographer/artist Arne Svenson

Kaitlyn Hunt

False Allegation Of Anti-Gay Bigotry Of The Year

Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents, who spun a false tale of anti-gay prejudice to portray their sexual predator daughter as a victim after she was accused of statutory rape by the parents of her under-age target. Hunt’s parents even managed to suck the ACLU into their web and the liberal-leaning press portrayed her as a martyr to anti-gay bias. But Hunt’s lies ultimately caused her cover-story to unravel.

 Unethical Hoax Of The Year

Oberlin students Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, aided and abetted by  Oberlin College and its president, Marvin Krislov. The two students, self-proclaimed progressives, posted a series of racist and anti-Semitic posters, graffiti and anonymous emails as “an experiment.” Krislov and Oberlin, after cancelling classes and engaging in campus-wide navel-gazing, continued to allow the media and the public believe that this was the work of racists on campus well after it had learned who the real miscreants wereRunner-up: The horrible Meg Lanker-Simons, former University of Wyoming student (now admitted to law school—I don’t want to talk about it) who threatened herself with rape and used the bogus threat to show that her campus was violent and sexist.

Most Unethical Use of Social Media Continue reading