Unethical Quote Of The Week: Ruth Graham, In Slate.

This is almost too easy, especially now, and others have flagged it too, but really, she can hardly be shunned enough for this…

“But I think the real reason the clip has spread is simpler: It’s the kid’s face. The face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty. The face remains almost completely still as his peers hoot in awed delight at his bravado. The face is both punchable and untouchable. Many observers recognized it right away.”

Ruth Graham in her Slate piece, , “The MAGA Teenager Who Harassed a Native American Veteran Is Still Unnamed, but We’ve Seen His Face Before” an attack on Coventry Catholic school student Nick Sandmann based on what we now know was a politically motivated fake news smear based on a deceptively edited video and knee-jerk media bias against anyone daring to support the President.

Her post is still up.

I was going to include this in my hate-themed warm-up yesterday, but Graham deserves her own post, so utterly despicable is she. Ann Althouse’s son, also a blogger, issued two tweets that almost encompass her void of ethics and fairness, writing,

How is it OK to make a national news story out of not liking someone’s smile? Mocking someone’s smile is as bad as telling someone they have to smile more, and we’re all supposed to think the latter is blatantly offensive, right?,

and

Slate’s Facebook post of this article calls the kid’s facial expression “the smirk of evil.” I don’t know how adults can sleep at night after publicly trashing a kid and calling him “evil.”

Graham wasn’t alone. Here’s BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter about Sandmann’s face:

One theme of the conversations over the past 24 hours = how deeply familiar this look is. It’s the look of white patriarchy, of course, but that familiarity — that banality — is part of what prompts the visceral reaction. This isn’t spectacular. It’s life in America.

After the more extensive videos acme out, Petersen, like many others, just refused to accept the fact that she was wrong, and the kids had been smeared:

I have watched all of the videos. You can understand that the situation was more complex than the first video and still recognize why the sight of that face caused a visceral reaction in so many.

Yeah, I understand why: Petersen is a bigot who is now incapable of accurate perception. She has absorbed the Big Lie that “Make America Great Again” is some kind of coded white supremacy slogan, along with the narrative that white men are viruses in society. The correct analogy is the “Hands up, Don’t shoot” lie. It was accepted as true by the news media and activists who wanted to hang the involved police officer to advance their propaganda that innocent young blacks were being gunned down in the streets, and even after the lie was exposed, many still repeat it as fact today. In that spirit of convenient denial,  Deadspin’s Laura Wagner wrote, “Don’t Doubt What You Saw With Your Own Eyes,” and accused the Covington student’s’ defenders “siding with some shithead MAGA teens and saying that 2+2=5 in the face of every bit of evidence there is to be had.” Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/18: “Ugh!” “Bah!” “Arf!””Ew!”And “Ahh!”

Why are these guys happy? Read on…

Goooood morning!

1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media? Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order  to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.

To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.

2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”

Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

Stop making me defend President Trump. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, “June Had Better Be Better Than May” Edition: Wait, CNN Is Condemning Double Standards? [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. How low can the New York Times go?  Even lower than I thought...In today editorial, the Times editorial board complains about President Trump’s pardon of conservative writer  Dinesh D’Souza, whom it describes as a “right-wing troll.” Okay…and by that kind of measure, the entire Times editorial staff is a collective left-wing troll. The Times notes that D’Souza is “known for, among other things, posting racist tweets about President Barack Obama [ The Times identified a single “racist tweet,” but in any event, such tweets are not illegal]  spreading the lie that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator [ Not a lie, just an unfair characterization that D’Souza may genuinely believe. Lying is also not illegal, and the Times should be grateful for this given its own proclivities] and writing that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” [ An opinion, if an obnoxious one, and also not illegal.] So what? None of that justifies D’Souza’s prosecution on a technical election law violation that many found to be politically motivated and pushed by those who took offense at, well, exactly what the Times cited about him. Bill Clinton, during the 2016 primaries, openly violated the law by politicking for Hillary at a polling place in Massachusetts without any consequences. That was selective non-prosecution if the offense was usually enforced, and would have been selective, suspicious prosecution if he had been charged when most violators are not. There are good reasons, in other words, to believe that an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat gadfly was targeted vindictively by the Obama administration to chill his political speech. Trump’s pardon is defensible, if provocative. Then the Times writes,

“The tendency of presidents of both parties to reward cronies with clemency — from Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton’s of the financier Marc Rich — is one Washington tradition that we’d welcome Mr. Trump smashing.”

You read that correctly. The New York Times just sunk to a new low, which is quite an achievement, comparing Gerald Ford’s brave, wise, and politically ruinous pardon of Richard Nixon for the good of the nation (and it was good for the nation, while a protracted political show trial of a disgraced President would not have been) to Bill Clinton’s probably criminal pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife coincidentally followed up Clinton’s  defiantly perverse  act with a huge financial gift to Clinton’s Presidential library.

2. How to invalidate an apology in one, stupid step. Yesterday “Cunt”-Hurler Samantha Bee apologized “sincerely” for her scurrilous attack on Ivanka Trump after it began to appear that her incivility might lose her show some sponsors. Then she almost immediately showed how sincerely ( as in “not one bit”) at last night’s award ceremony, as the Television Academy  honored Bee’s  “Full Frontal”  for “advancing social change” (as in ‘pushing partisan anger and hate to the point where a civil war is no longer unthinkable.’ Yay Samantha!). Her award should have been cancelled, of course, and by awarding it to Bee anyway, the Academy tacitly endorsed the position that Ivanka Trump is a “feckless cunt.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/17: Uber, Thanksgiving Hate, Accountability, Trump’s Unavoidable Choice, And Ruing The Day That Changed Everything

Good Morning.

…But 54 years ago it seemed like a beautiful morning in Dealey Plaza…

1 “President Kennedy is dead…” I heard those word over my little black transistor radio that I mostly used to listen to Red Sox games. Let’s see how many news stories take note of the historical significance of today: the anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas. It is the date when a disturbed crypto-Communist radical took the fate and future of an entire nation and culture in his hands, and squeezed them to pulp—one of the three or four most unethical acts in U.S. history. As readers here know, I am not a Jack Kennedy admirer. Nonetheless, in “Back to the Future II” terms, it’s impossible to imagine what 2017 America would be like had Lee Harvey Oswald not shot the top of JFK’s head off in 1963, but it’s easy to imagine that we would be better. The assassination created a violent shift in the time/space continuum, and we never got back on track.

2. Bye-Bye Uber, you’re also dead to me. Uber is untrustworthy and unethical, and anyone who trusts the company going forward is a fool as well as an enabler of corporate misconduct. This is signature significance: the company revealed that hackers stole 57 million driver and rider accounts last year, yet Uber withheld that fact from the public until now after paying a $100,000 ransom to the hackers. Ethical, competent, trustworthy companies don’t operate this way.

It wasn’t just the company’s juvenile and piggish former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick. The company he created inherited his ethical deficits like a lethal gene. Any company is obligated to reveal hacks of personal data to members of the public who might be harmed by them immediately.

If you use Uber after this, you’re an idiot. You’re also sending the message that an epic breach of trust by a corporation will be shrugged off via one or twenty rationalizations, like 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Keep sending that message, and pretty soon they’ll be using 1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it.”

3. More Tales of the Anti-Trump Deranged: This essay in the virulent Trump-hating CG is meant humorously, but also is serious in its nastiness. Joe Berkowitz’s call to good little resistance members and Hillary bitter-enders to “ruin thanksgiving” as their “civic duty” stands as a self-indictment of the ugly, divisive mindset that so much of the Left has descended into over the past year. In fact, with just a few tweaks, it could have been written by a conservative satirist—if there were such things.

One aspect of Trump’s election turning the U.S. into a “Nation of Assholes” that I did not see coming was progressives and Democrats feeling liberated to go full-asshole themselves. This article shows the phenomenon. In particular, Berkowitz demonstrates how the Left can no longer distinguish between legitimate policy disagreements and what should be a matter of non-partisan consensus. His argument for using Thanksgiving to punish Trump supporting relatives by turning a celebration of faith and family into a table-top Gettysburg goes like this:

They can’t stand idly by while President Deals tramples every other American tradition and yet somehow expect that Thanksgiving will be normal too. [Note: Supporting the elected President is one of those traditions, and a crucial one.]…Here are a few suggestions for how to ruin Thanksgiving, arranged by ascending order of righteous fury:

Don’t show up. For some parents, your absence will speak louder than any sodden arguments over the density of pumpkin pie. If you can’t even look them in the eye, they’ll know you mean business. [Note: Is he joking? I know many families who are eschewing family gatherings for exactly this reason. Yes, I put most of this on the Angry Left and Barack Obama, aided and abetted by late night TV comics and the news media. They have set out to divide the nation by race, gender, age, class and party, seeking to build metaphorical walls where once there were divisions that could be forgotten or ignored during recreation and the shared commonality of citizenship. .]

Show up and be kind of an asshole. No hugs; only stiff, formal handshakes. During the football game, talk about police brutality nonstop. Take any opportunity to emphasize just how much Bruce Springsteen and the entire E Street band loathes Trump….[Note: See?]

Scorched Earth. Not even a handshake; just stare, disgustedly, at their outstretched arms….[Note: Among the  inarguable outrages that the essayist claims justifies such treatment: not supporting an increase in the minimum wage, refusing to uncritically accept climate change propaganda, and the President speaking “almost exclusively in racist dog whistles and ‘locker room talk.'” You know, racist dogwhistles like opposing the tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee,  correctly stating that a white nationalist group has the same rights to assemble and protest as anyone else without being attacked,  or objecting to NFL players inflicting an incoherent protest on their captive audience. ]

I was asked for ethics advice regarding looming political disputes during Thanksgiving, and here it is: It is rude and unkind to raise a topic you know is emotional and painful for people at the table. So don’t do it, just as you wouldn’t (I hope) deliberately raise such topics as Cousin Cecile’s abortion, Jim Jr.’s arrest, or Uncle Ethan’s IRS problems. Continue reading

Why Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Gloucester PTO’s “Don Trump” Gravestone

In Gloucester, Massachusetts last week, the parent-teacher organization hosted a Halloween themed fundraiser at West Parish Elementary School.   One of the parents was thoughtful enough to bring a bean bag toss game that featured fake tombstones. One of them had the familiar name “Don Trump” on it. Hilarious! And so clever…

Surprisingly, at least to the thoughtful parents and the host who didn’t have the sense to say, “Cute! But you know we can’t display that…”, not everyone present, even in the Bluer than Blue Bay State of my birth, revels in the thought of the President of the United States dying in office.  Several  parents took photos of the fun game, and sent them to Massachusetts Republican Party committeewoman Amanda Orlando Kesterson, who shared one of the them on Facebook along with a searing post, which read in part,

“I find it absolutely despicable that the PTO of one of our local elementary schools would bring this political agenda before our children. The parents or teachers responsible for this disgusting display should claim responsibility publicly and apologize publicly as well. … We should teach our children that the office of the president ALWAYS deserves respect. Our school system is not the place for nasty political agendas.”

One question that puzzles me: did they object to the fundraiser organizers before sending the photos? That would be the ethical course. There’s nothing wrong with ring those ethics alarms by hand if they are stuck.

After the controversy erupted into the news media, the school principal, Dr. Telena Imel, apologized in a letter to parents, saying

“Intentionally or not, it inappropriately brought a political agenda into what was designed to be a fun family affair. Our school, and this includes school events sponsored by related groups, is not the place for politics. In planning future events, it will be made clear to organizers that school is not the place to engage in or to display political agendas or opinions.”

Oh, I think it’s fair to conclude that it was intentional.

The parents responsible for the  game  apologized, as did Gloucester’s mayor, who said in a statement, “The City of Gloucester does not condone political messaging within our schools.”

There is no other way to describe this incident except as a mass ethics alarms malfunction, one that is overwhelmingly afflicting Democrats. (Okay, one more question: Did any Democratic-leaning parents see what was wrong with the Dead Donald reference?) I am old enough to remember the assassination of Jack Kennedy, a Massachusetts native son. I can’t imagine anyone in my state not recoiling at any hint of a casual or satirical reference to another President’s death, even Nixon, and Mass was the only state that voted for George McGovern.

We almost had another assassination  when two crazy women took shots at Gerald Ford, and then one more near miss, when a sick Jodie Foster fan somehow thought killing Ronald Reagan would entrance her. When did this ethics alarm get broken, and how? The gravestone of the current President being presented as an appropriate Halloween decoration in an event with children present? Hosted by a parent-teacher organization? No alarms? Not even faint ringing? In Massachusetts, where everyone once knew “Abraham, Martin and John” by heart?

The alarms didn’t ring in part because teachers began thinking that indoctrinating children in their own political views became accepted practice during the Bush administration, as schools started showing Al Gore’s climate change agitprop in class. The Bush administration wasn’t behind the trend, but the Obama administration encouraged it, especially during the Post Sandy Hook anti-gun freak-out. Teachers were punishing kids for finger guns and biting pizza and pop tarts into pistol shapes even before that.

Still, the “It’s not good citizenship to joke about killing the President” alarm was functioning even if the “Don’t indoctrinate kids in partisan politics” clapper had been covered in bubble-wrap. Then the nation’s voters had the audacity to reject an awful, corrupt and dishonest Democratic Party candidate whose campaign had included calling anyone who opposed her a sexist, and anyone who voted for her opponent as “deplorable,” as well as promising that she carry on the policies of that wonderful President who had so thoroughly divided the nation in eight years that someone like Donald Trump—well, not just like him, but him— had been nominated to run against her. Suddenly the very same people who had lectured Trump and Trump supporters about how in the U.S., after an election, no matter how contentious, good citizens always put down their placards and unite behind the winner, validating and honoring American democracy and the wisdom of the people and our system of selecting leaders, did a back somersault reminiscent of Nadia Comanici her prime, and declared, in demonstrations and boycotts and calls for various means of undoing the election,  that this President didn’t deserve that deference and respect.

Then various voices in the party made vague and not so vague references to how nice it would be if someone “took out” the President. (That’s Maxine Waters’ term.) After the Charlottesville riots, Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal—I wonder what party she belongs to?–went on her personal Facebook and said to a commenter, “I hope Trump is assassinated!”

The main pro-Trump death chorus, however, came from that saintly community that is always doing yeoman service as the culture’s moral exemplar, the entertainment business—you know, where Harvey Weinstein and the cool, beautiful, progressive people hang out. Madonna told an audience, “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.” Johnny Depp told another throng, “This is going to be in the press and it’ll be horrible. But I like that you are all a part of it. When was the last time an actor assassinated a President?” Rapper Snoop Dogg remixed  “Lavender” by Canadian band BadBadNotGood adding a clown-clad version of President Trump called Ronald Klump, and showed him being  shot with a toy gun.

Last summer, New York’s acclaimed Public Theater staged a version of William Shakespeare’s ” Julius Caesar” in  Central Park with the crowd-pleasing gimmick of portraying Julius Caesar as a Trump clone. The audience cheered as he was assassinated in an on-stage blood bath. And, lest we forget, there was this:

All in good fun, of course!

Thus are once functioning ethics alarms silenced.

Now read the comments to Ms Kesterson’s Facebook post.

Dear Lisa Bloom, You Unethical Hack: Stop Making Me Defend Kathy Griffin!

I had to get this post up before the Morning Ethics Warm-Up, because it warmed ME up by almost exploding my head.

Lisa Bloom, the daughter of feminist muck-raking celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, has already shown the she has either no regard for legal ethics, or is spectacularly ignorant of them. She has publicly breached the duty of loyalty, attacking her former client, Harvey Weinstein; she took on Weinstein in the teeth of a blatant conflict of interest that she also publicized, as if it was something to be proud of. Yesterday, she showed that she is unfamiliar with, or perhaps just doesn’t give a damn about, the core legal ethics principle of confidentiality, perhaps the most important legal ethics duty of all.

Her latest ex-client to be the victim of Bloom’s unprofessional conduct and disloyalty is Kathy Griffin, she of the severed head. Griffin announced that she had fired Bloom, and wasn’t nice about it—but then when is Griffin ever nice?—saying, “Yes, I got Bloomed. Yes, I didn’t have a good experience with her. Yes, I feel that she and her husband exacerbated my personal situation.” Disaffected clients can say anything they choose about their lawyers. They can do it on Yelp, on the lawyer consumer site Avvo,  to the Hollywood Reporter or hire a skywriter. What a client says, mean or not, untrue or not, still  does not alter a lawyer’s continuing ethical obligations one whit. A lawyer cannot get into a public fight with a former client over what did or did not occur during the representation. Every lawyer knows this, or is supposed to.

Yet Bloom—I would say “incredibly” had we not seen other examples of her professional ethics cluelessness—released this statement on Twitter:

[My head told me in a statement that it would have exploded over this but determined that doing so over Kathy Griffin and Lisa  Bloom was demeaning to head-explosions. I concur.]

The fact that Bloom had prepared Griffin’s remarks for the press conference, the fact that they worked on them together, the fact that Griffin discarded them, the fact the performer “ad-libbed” and “extemporized” are all client confidences. For all we knew, Griffin’s claim during the press conference that she was ignoring her notes was part of a pre-planned strategy.  I assumed it was; Griffin is an actress. “It’s best if you show that you are talking from the heart, Kathy,” is advice I would expect Griffin’s lawyer to give. A lawyer cannot tell the public that a client ignored her advice. Only the lawyer and the client know that. Revealing it is to disclose information the lawyer learned during the course of the representation that will harm or embarrass the client, a serious ethics violation and betrayal of trust Continue reading

Professor Volokh’s Ethics Dissent On The Vicious, Pazuzu-Blaming Professor’s Firing

‘Yes, I know he’s an idiot, but we should support idiots as highly paid teachers of our children, for the protection of the non-idiots…

Eugene Volokh is one of the best and most objective legal minds in the country. If he finds himself on the Supreme Court when Kennedy retires or Ginsberg shuffles off this mortal coil, we will not have suffered through the ugliness of the Trump years in vain. When he opines, I listen, as we all should, and he has now opined regarding the now fired idiot that I wrote about this morning, ex-University of Tampa visiting sociology professor Ken Storey.

Storey used Twitter, in the middle of the still-unfolding human disaster in Houston and soon New Orleans, to announce that flooding victims who were Trump supporters or Republicans deserved to die. He did this twice, so his later claim that his words did not intentionally convey what his words were obviously intended to convey was a desperate and obvious lie.

I wrote:

The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Today, in the Washington Post, Professor Volokh advocates a different position:

Storey’s comments were nasty and mean-spirited; and I should note that the University of Tampa is a private university, in a state that doesn’t limit private employers’ ability to fire employees for their speech. The university’s actions thus seem legal (assuming they didn’t breach any contract). And Storey’s comments also weren’t academic or likely to be part of a serious political debate.

But the university’s action strikes me as further undermining the freedom of expression and debate at American universities, including the freedom to say things that are much more thoughtful. If you were an untenured faculty member at the University of Tampa, would you feel free to express your views on controversial subjects, when you saw how the university reacted to this tweet? Even if your views were very different politically, what do you think the University would do if people started pressuring for your dismissal, pointing to the Storey incident as precedent?

I’ve talked before about “censorship envy,” one mechanism through which these sorts of speech restrictions can grow: “If my neighbor — and especially my political adversary — gets to ban speech he reviles,” the thinking goes, “why shouldn’t I get to do the same?”

If a university has a strong policy of protecting speech, including offensive speech, administrators can point to that policy as a means of resisting calls for firing a controversial faculty member, and they can appeal to people’s desire to see speakers on their own side protected, and use that desire to help protect speakers on all sides. But once the university starts firing some people for speech “that do[es] not reflect [the university’s] community views or values,” that makes it much harder to resist calls for more suppression. Indeed, at that point tolerating speech starts implicitly conveying the message that the speech does reflect the university’s community views or values — and to avoid that implication, the university would have to fire any speaker who offended some sufficiently influential constituency.

I am very confident that in this rare case, Prof. Volokh is dead wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/17: A Vicious Professor, Pazuzu, And Kathy Griffin Revokes Her Apology

[ Just to remind you how good Debbie, Gene and Donald were. Note that these dancers skipped the staircase..]

GOOD Morning…

I’m changing the Warm-Up headlines to reflect the topics covered. I may even go back and revise the old headlines. It took a while, but I realized that having dozens of essentially identical post titles with only a date as the distinction made archive research harder than it had to be.

1.I would have headlined the story of now fired visiting University of Tampa professor Ken Storey “Vicious, bigoted and possessed by the Demon Pazuzu is no way to go through academia, son,” but so many professors have used social media to make outrageous and offensive statements that the ethics issue is getting repetitious. (I think Jonathan Turley has done a post on each one of them, and will continue to on his blog.)

The question is whether a college or university is breaching its commitment to free expression and academic freedom when it fires a professor who says that all men are rapists, or that whites should be exterminated, or, in Storey’s case,

When asked later if this theory also applied to Florida,  and Trump supporters there deserved a similar fate.the Florida college professor replied,

“Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”

The answer is no. The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Ken compounded his ethical offense by the standards of Ethics Alarms by issuing a terrible apology that evoked the Pazuzu excuse. Realizing that he had gone too far, he tweeted,

“I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”

Translation: “Oops. My hateful expression of glee over the tragedy afflicting Texans seems to have put my job in jeopardy. I regret that, so I have pulled down my tweet and am pretending to be sorry. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group, even though somehow my tweet wished ill on a group in the clearest terms, and I doubled down on it. Someone or something else must have been responsible. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly. (Saying that will let me keep my job, right?)”

This is a #10 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the worst there is:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

Storey was fired.

Good.

2. Speaking of phony apologies, Kathy Griffin, she of the Bloody Head, went all the way to Australia to reveal that she really isn’t sorry about representing that the beheading of a U.S. President is hilarious: Continue reading