1. Let us begin with this. The National Rifle Association is an advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations operate exactly like lawyer representing clients, and their ethical obligations are similar. They must be loyal to the interests of the object of the representation. They must be zealous, honest, and they must avoid conflicts of interest. In this regard all advocacy organizations, regardless of where they land on the ideological or partisan spectrum, are the same. They have a mission, and a job, and a duty to do it well. The ACLU exists to be an advocate for absolute integrity of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth. The NRA has a similar mission regarding the Second Amendment, because the ACLU has never been zealous about that one. FIRE advocates for free speech on college campuses, which is often not a First Amendment issue.
NARAL is a zealous advocate for abortion rights, in absolute terms. Most advocacy groups adopt absolute positions which often seem unreasonable to moderates. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an advocacy group for business—I once worked for them—and opposed government regulations. The Association for Justice—I worked for them too–is an advocacy group for plaintiff’s trial lawyers, and fights any efforts at reforming the tort system, such as capping damages or punishing frivolous lawsuits. All of these and more take the extreme position on one side of a controversy to balance other advocacy groups that take extreme positions in opposition. In this they are very much like opposing lawyers in a trial, except the public is the jury. This is how democracy works, and it is the only way democracy can work.
Condemning and demonizing an advocacy organization because one does not agree with or dislikes the position it advocates is, in my view, exactly like condemning a lawyer for effectively representing an unpopular client—and a lot of ignorant Americans do that, too. Citizens have a right to have an effective organization promote their views and opinions in the court of public opinion, just as citizens have a right to have a competent attorney to represent their interests in a court of law. Attacks on this principle are unsustainable, unethical, and undermine democracy.
2. CNN, and other segments of the news media but especially CNN, has been aggressively attacking this principle since February 14, when Nicholas Cruz opened fire. CNN is NOT an advocacy organization, or is not supposed to be. It is a news organization, and its job and duty is to present facts to the “jury” without trying to influence it one way or the other. On the gun issue, CNN has completely abandoned objectify and its duty to inform, in an unethical effort to advocate for anti-gun interests antithetical to journalism standards.
3. Here is a stunning admission by the New York Times, which has been almost as shrill in its call for gun bans as CNN, in a front page story (Bolding mine):
To many of its opponents, that decades-long string of victories is proof that the N.R.A. has bought its political support. But the numbers tell a more complicated story: The organization’s political action committee over the last decade has not made a single direct contribution to any current member of the Florida House or Senate, according to campaign finance records.
In Florida and other states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the N.R.A. derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.
“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”
A better application of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle would be difficult to find than the decision by Memphis, Tennessee to remove a huge monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and an even larger heroic equestrian statue (above) of Nathan Bedford Forrest, swashbuckling Confederate general and (allegedly) the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, from two public parks.
As we have discussed here in great detail, I am unalterably opposed to the current mania among our Left-leaning friends and neighbors of tearing down statues, monuments and memorials honoring past historical figures because their lives, beliefs and character do not comport with current day standards or political norms. This primitive exercise in historical censorship has been especially focused on famous and notable figures from the Confederacy, although recent efforts have targeted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and even Theodore Roosevelt. Of the attacks on memorials to Confederate figures, I wrote,
[ Union veterans] didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing views, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record.
I feel strongly about this, as the tone of that post, far from my first on the subject, shows.
But… Continue reading
White nationalists were planning on having a music festival meet-and-greet at the Joppatowne, Maryland Memorial VFW Post 5838 on St Patrick’s Day. The 11th annual event (yes, there are Nazi music festivals…) was announced on Stormfront.org, and coordinated by Baltimore area far-right record label Label 56, which distributes skinhead music, CDs, videos, and other white supremacy merchandise. More about the record label:
Label 56 is the music outlet for a violent neo-Nazi gang called Maryland State “Skinheads” (MDS). MDS head Jason Tankersley, while more involved with their Mixed Martial Arts arm has some organizational input over Label 56 as well. A link for Label 56 appears on the homepages of several other Northeastern racist skinhead groups, including the Keystone State Skinheads, American Thule Society, and the Vinlanders Social Club. Maryland State Skinheads, Keystone United and Supreme White Alliance members are regular attendees.
It’s Going Down ( or IGD) describes itself as
“a media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. We publish original content alongside anonymous submissions and repost articles from other websites which share our perspectives. We do not and have not called for events. Our news network is made up of friends and comrades across so-called North America whose mission is to uplift and build capacity for a wide range of social struggles by providing news and analysis of when it goes down: riots, strikes, sabotage, occupations, expropriations, rebellion, revolt, insurrection. Whether together or alone – we support liberatory revolt.”
This event is indicative of the rise of white supremacism and the growing organizational capacity of the far-Right nationally. The Ku Klux Klan, and specifically the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, have been distributing flyers locally in Ellicott City, Towson, and Bel Air, and as far away as North Carolina. It is important to oppose the increasing Neo-Nazi presence together. Time is of the essence. The Mid-Atlantic General Defense Committee (GDC) is monitoring developments in Maryland and working with at-risk communities to respond as they emerge. The GDC encourages everyone to get involved in taking an active stance now.
The complaints and threats from IGD and other allied groups were successful in getting the VFW to cancel the event. Continue reading
I can’t bring myself to be thankful for the election of a President who has horrified and revolted me for the better part of a decade, but I am thankful that some troubling trends and attitudes in our society and culture have received the metaphorical slap in the face that Trump’s victory delivered. The Ethics Alarms tag “This will help elect Donald Trump” is about to be retired, but when mourning progressives ask you today, while passing the gravy, “Why? Why?”, you should direct them to this link, and this post. If they don’t help, they are are beyond helping.
Three awful stories surfaced after the election, two of them yesterday, that illustrate the kinds of social dysfunction that have been nurtured in the Obama years, and if a Trump administration can erase them and their ilk, returning some sanity to the national landscape, no one will be able to say the Trump experiment was a total bust…
1. First, and most unforgivable, we have this recent quote from Bernie Sanders’ former spokeswoman, Symone Sanders (no relation). Appearing on CNN yesterday and talking about the future of the shell-shocked Democratic Party, she said in part…
“In my opinion we don’t need white people leading the Democratic party right now.”
On April 6, 1987, Dodger executive Al Campanis appeared on the ABC News show “Nightline,” and infamously said that black people couldn’t be major league baseball managers. The statement caused an uproar, and Campanis, whom nobody who knew him regarded as a racist, lost his job and career. Symone Sanders’ comment, which like that of Campanis equates the ability to do a job with race, is no less offensive than what Campanis said, but similar sentiments are broadcast frequently from black public figures without widespread obfection or consequence. ( Sanders also said sarcastically this month, after the election, when shown a video of a mob beating up a Trump supporter, “Oh my goodness, poor white people!”)
Acceptable anti-white racism and a bigotry double standard both defy American values, including basic decency, respect and fairness, but there are seldom consequences for shameless bigots like Sanders, except the cumulative one of having the people she and others denigrate for their color and ancestry sticking the human thumb named Donald Trump in their eyes.
It is no more racially biased for white Americans to take offense at the broad negative stereotyping endorsed by Sanders than for black Americans to oppose white supremacists…or clueless passive bigots like Al Campanis. Their anger at being told their skin disqualifies them for any job is justified, and the fact that news media talking heads nod respectfully at racist bile like the comments of Symone Sanders is further justification. ( Ted Koppel’s reaction to Campanis’s jaw-dropping statement 30 years ago can be fairly summarized as, “Wait…what?“ ) Not happily voting for a political party that embraces individuals who want to marginalize you because of race or gender isn’t bigotry, as the current Bitter Hillary Fan narrative now styles it. It is common sense.
Promoting racial division and bias is unhealthy and un-American no matter what direction it comes from. Until everyone can be certain that the Democratic Party is on board with that concept, and until proud and arrogant racists like Symone Sanders are shown the same level of tolerance Al Campanis received—that is, none—distrust of progressives and the news media will grow, and should. Continue reading
I think my favorite kinds of Ethics Alarms comment are those in which commenters honestly, openly and sometimes painfully explore their conflicted feelings on complicated ethics issues clouded by unresolved, and perhaps unresolvable, gray areas. This, by Ethics Alarms newcomer valentine0486, is such a comment.
The topic is the fair treatment of Muslims, in light of the formal tenets of their religion. Obviously, this is much on everyone’s mind now. An increasingly threatening form of terrorism is emanating from Islam. One end of the political and ideological spectrum holds that the entire religion and all of its adherents, including U.S. citizens, are inherently untrustworthy, and must be presumed to be dangerous. The other end, unfortunately the end resided in by the President (and Hillary Clinton, until the polls dictate otherwise), persists in denying that there is reason to regard Islam as any different from any other religion, and most absurdly, pretending that ISIS isn’t even Islamic. There must be a reasonable, safe, fair, American way between these two extremes, but what is it? This comment doesn’t solve the conundrum, but it opens the window a bit wider to air the inquiry.
“The photo has gone viral this weekend as netizens praise the officer’s extraordinary show of professionalism and grace under such trying circumstances.”
–—The Huffington Post, commenting on the photo above, showing black police officer Leroy Smith giving a feeble white supremacist assistance during the Ku Klux Klan rally held at the South Carolina Statehouse over the weekend.
Does the Huffington Post have any idea what professionalism is? Ethical conduct? Increasingly, I have my doubts, and this is just the latest example.
We already know the average “netizen” doesn’t know ethics from shinola, but the Huffington Post is a news and culture commentary site. One would think a basic comprehension of such concepts as duty, fairness, justice, responsibility and ethics would be essential. Well, let me rephrase that: they are obviously essential. One would think the Huffington Post would know that without them, its analysis of pretty much anything is worthless.
Look, you ethics dolts: Smith was doing his job, that’s all. The fact that he personally may have objected to the beliefs and words of the protesters is completely irrelevant to his professional obligations. He must treat all professionals the same. To do otherwise would un-professional, un-ethical, and wrong. Dominique Mosbergen is apparently of the opinion that the normal, professional thing to do is to refuse to help people whom you don’t like, agree with, or whose views offend you. Wait—isn’t this what the jerks who refuse to sell cakes to gay couples do? Somehow I don’t think Dominique agrees with those anti-gay marriage zealots or that she feels to just treat such customers as human beings would constitute an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace.” Why does she think a black cop helping a distressed racist like he would a similarly needy NAACP member because they are both citizens and as a public servant he is duty-bound to treat them both exactly the same is an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace,” then?
It is because she is incompetent and ignorant. It is because she doesn’t comprehend what professionalism is. It is because to her, “White Racist Lives Don’t Matter,” so she is just bowled over when an African American acts without employing her biases.
Leroy Smith behaved like any professional would, and should. Nothing more, nothing less. Most cops do their jobs, and do them professionally. There is nothing newsworthy or extraordinary about the photo, except to people who believe that the primary motivating factor for most people is hate.
How in the world, you might wonder, would a Krispy Kreme promotion called “KKK Wednesday” get the green light from an American corporation, even the British affiliates of that corporation, and even though the promotion occurred in Hull, a city in Yorkshire?
The disturbing answer is that despite the internet, Google, public education, and nearly a century’s history of vile acts of murder and racism that received world-wide attention, recognizing the significance of the letters KKK requires intellectual curiosity, consciousness, and a good faith effort to have a bare minimum of knowledge about the world around us.
KKK was intended to stand for “Krispy Kreme Klub.” How many people do you think vetted the promotion without a single neuron firing? My guess: high double figures, maybe more. In other settings, such carelessness kills people, destroys companies, and starts plagues and wars.
The most important feature of apologies is that they express sincere and honest regret for the real harm done. If the first apology for misconduct fails that test, how much credence should a second attempt have? Does it negate the first apology completely? Ought it to be read and understood in light of the initial, unsatisfactory apology? Or should it be ignored completely as a public relations document crafted to achieve a result, rather than to express genuine contrition?
The case of Chris Harris, a board member for the Hooks Independent School District in the town of Hooks, Texas, provides a fascinating test.
Lat week, Harris posted an image of a Klu Klux Klan member with the caption, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” to his Facebook page. The reaction to this was what almost anyone with a fully functioning cerebrum would expect, a category that Harris does not belong to, or at least did not when he posted it. Perhaps after shouting, “Doh!” or perhaps not, Harris rushed to repair the damage, publishing this apology:
Terrible apology! Continue reading
Putting the jester’s privilege to great use, Comedy Central comic Stephen Colbert not only defied his corporate masters, communications giant Viacom, but mocked them in the process. He was officially warned of the corporation’s “concern” about “Laser Klan,” his planned animated riff involving the Klu Klux Klan during Black History Month. Colbert aired it anyway.
I have to wonder if he would have done the same if Viacom had been concerned about offending Muslims, rather than, hmmmm, let’s see, being worried that some racial victim-mongers would decide that making fun of the Klan, sworn enemies of blacks, Jews, and, oh, so many others, was somehow disrespectful to blacks in February because only they could…oh, I don’t know what the complaint would be. I can’t blame the suits at Viacom…I bet someone at MSNBC and the NAACP are working up a political correctness offense theory right now, so Colbert will have to humble himself and beg for forgiveness.
Before that happens, though, let’s give Colbert his due. What he did takes principles and guts…and high ratings. Just be careful your numbers don’t fall off, Stephen.
And remember the Smothers Brothers.