#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

"let's run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"

“Let’s run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”

Various anti-gay marriage zealots vowing to defy the Supreme Court and the law of the land are un-American and wrong, but a woman who decides to unilaterally make a decision that only the elected representatives of the citizens of South Carolina are authorized to make is a hero. Such is the muddled state of thought, ethics and civics among America’s progressives. Disobey the laws you don’t like, condemn the character of those who disobey the laws you favor. No integrity, no principles, no responsibility, no coherence, just grandstanding and anarchy, aimed at cheering ideologues incapable of proportion or restraint. This is an ethics vacuum masquerading as virtue.

“Bree,” which is what pole-climbing flag-grabber Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome calls herself, is under arrest, as she should be, charged with defacing a monument and facing a fine. Good. She deserves one, and no accolades whatsoever. The Confederate flag is already under siege and on the verge of a permanent cultural taboo. Her actions would have constituted genuine civil disobedience and courage had it come before the flag was magically assigned blame for the murder of nine Charleston African Americans, to call attention to its symbolic defiance of civil rights. Coming now, Bree’s stunt is just  self-promoting vigilante theater, seeking and receiving support from the likes of Michael Moore.

There was nothing brave, productive or necessary about the flag stunt. The was a lot wrong about its message: don’t wait for the government process to work, don’t allow democracy and civil discourse to prevail, just unilaterally do what you “know” is right, and let the “ends justify the means” embracing mob celebrate. No doubt, this is the anti-Constitutional attitude the President has encouraged, but it recklessly risks fraying the seams of our democratic government, and erodes the rule of law. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Gary Sinise

gary-sinise

“With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”

—Actor and Wounded Warrior ally Gary Senise, in an open letter responding to Howard Dean’s statement that the audience for “American Sniper” consisted of “angry people.”

Good question. What are the vicious and anti-military critics of Clint Eastwood’s box-office busting bio-pic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle talking about?

I saw the film yesterday. It’s not pro-war, pro-Iraq invasion, or political in any way. The various critics of the film out themselves as hateful and so biased against combat, the military and, I don’t know—life? Reality?—that they can’t even keep their minds open a crack for a thought-provoking piece of popular art. Dean had said, turning his review (I’ll bet anything that he hasn’t seen the film) into a gratuitous attack on tea party supporters:

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

In the same forum–his weekly HBO conservative-bashing fest–Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot” (there is nothing whatsoever in the film that supports that diagnosis). Seth Rogen compared “American Sniper” to a Nazi propaganda film. Michael Moore used the film–which he couldn’t possibly have seen–to make the ridiculous observation that snipers were “cowards.” Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, was wounded repeatedly and awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars. For him to be smeared as a coward by the likes of Michael Moore is grotesque.

The film, among other things, shows just what kind of horror our service men and women endured in Iraq, how they suffered (and suffer still), what it did to them and their families, and accords them well-deserved compassion and respect. How sad, bitter and rotten inside someone must be to resent that. As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was probably exactly what John Wayne wanted “The Green Berets” to be during Vietnam, but had neither the discipline to avoid agitprop and sentimentality, nor Clint’s directing skills to pull it off.

After expressing his disgust at Dean’s outburst in a tweet, the stage and screen star, whose foundation works to help and recognize the soldiers and veterans he calls our “defenders,” wrote,

To Howard Dean,

I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

My guess is that Dean is talking about his own estrangement from basic American values, its history, and its essential role in the world, including all the sacrifices, risks and difficult choices that role demands. He’s the angry one.

 

Unethical Quote of the Week: Michael Moore

“If a man with an assault weapon goes into the school where Harry Reid’s grandchildren go to school tomorrow and kills his grandchildren, would he stand in front of that microphone at five o’clock and say, ‘I know how Dianne [Feinstein] had to witness the mayor getting murdered, but my grandchildren just got killed today, but, you know, we can’t get it passed because we just don’t have the votes.’”

Documentary Film-Maker Michael Moore, ranting about Senate Majority Harry Reid’s decision to remove Sen. Feinstein’s assault weapons ban from the Senate gun reform package.

This is when I should not say anything at all, my mother told me.

This is when I should not say anything at all, my mother told me.

I know ad hominem attacks are uncool, but truly: what an awful, awful man Michael Moore is. He lies in his documentaries; he engages in deceit routinely; he abused Charlton Heston, knowing he was in the throes of Altzheimer’s Disease; he praised Fidel Castro; he is, for all intents and purposes a Communist, his public statements are fueled by and designed to ignite hatred more often than not, and, on top of it all, he says unethical and asinine things like this. Moore is to progressives what Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump are to conservatives: any group that can endure, indeed, applaud such people has serious, deep-rooted ethical and cognitive problems. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Hugo Chavez Fan Club (Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), Oliver Stone and Joe Kennedy III

"We love you Hugo, we really do-oo! There isn't anyone, we love like you-oo! When you're not with us, we're blue! Oh, Hugo, we love you!"---From the new musical, "Bye-Bye Chavez," written by Oliver Stone, starring Sean Penn!

“We love you Hugo, we really do-oo! There isn’t anyone, we love like you-oo! When you’re not with us, we’re blue! Oh, Hugo, we love you!”—From the new musical, “Bye-Bye Chavez,” written by Oliver Stone, starring Sean Penn!

What do we learn from those who mourn the passing of Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez and praise his leadership? Chavez leaves his nation with a corrupted judiciary, an intimidated and manipulated press, a soaring violent crime rate, massive debt, crumbling infrastructure, galloping inflation, government-sanctioned anti-Semitism, and the prospect of political instability for the foreseeable future. When we hear an American praise Chavez, we learn that he or she neither trusts or values the institutions of democracy, like a free press and independent judiciary. We learn that such an individual believes that indeed the ends justify the means; that lies, repression, manipulation of news and public opinion, cultism, divisiveness and class warfare are all forgivable and even laudable in pursuit of “social justice,” roughly defined in the manner of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro, murderers all. Continue reading

A Disappointing and Damaging Ethics Dunce: The Obama Campaign

No matter who wins the Presidency on November 6, one thing is for certain. We now can be sure that the day will come when a future Presidential campaign runs an ad that concludes, “Don’t vote for him: he’s an asshole!” For that, we will be able to place the blame on, of all people, Barack Obama, and his 2012 campaign. This is the same Barack Obama who promised, the first time he was running for President, to change the tone in Washington; the same President Obama who told a group in 2010…

“But there is a sense that something is different now, that something is broken, that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should,” Mr. Obama said. “At times, it seems like we are unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate. This erosion of civility in the public square sows division and cynicism among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion….Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

Yet his 2012 campaign’s embrace of gutter-level name calling and divisive rhetoric, with the full participation of both the President and the Vice-President, has guaranteed that the tone Obama promised to change will change for the worse, and that the well of public opinion will be more toxic than ever. Continue reading

Recent Race Card Rankings: Trying Out The Knight Scale

I can see Michael Moore from here!

Ethics Alarms recently proposed the Knight Scale, a way to rank attempts to play the race card or otherwise accuse politicians, satirists, writers, pundits and others of racism in order to silence them, ruin their credibility, or score cheap political points in the media. The Knight Scale was made possible by blogger Christopher Knight, who somehow managed to find a cartoonist’s substitution of Michelle Obama for Marie Antoinette ( as a commentary on the First Lady’s ill-timed–some say—taste for lavish parties and social activities) in a famous painting. Despite the fact that the French queen was not, to my knowledge, black, Knight somehow found this to be blatant racism, thereby establishing the tippity-top of the Knight Scale: you just can’t come up with a more far-fetched, unfair, factually indefensible accusation of racism than that. With that outrageous complaint as a 10, the most outrageous, where would other, necessarily lesser bogus racism claims rank?

Let’s look at last week. From here on, we can count on an ever-increasing number of Knight Scale candidates, since an African-American President  presents such an irresistible temptation for unscrupulous race-baiters, and the entire Obama Administration is seemingly conditioned to cry race bias whenever criticism get hot, so consider this a trial run: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Keith Olbermann

Welcome back, Keith!

Keith Olbermann, the talented, arrogant, self-righteous progressive scold whose “Countdown” show on MSNBC managed to make Sean Hannity look fair and balanced, returned to the tube yesterday on Al Gore’s nascent, and apparently shameless, new TV news commentary channel, Current TV. Olbermann, who despite his rhetorical gifts is unwilling to brave dissent or ideological balance on his show (something that cannot be said, for example, of Fox News bloviator Bill O’Reilly or even Hannity), did manage to make himself seem reasonable by comparison by welcoming and fawning over guests Michael Moore and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, neither of whom ever met a progressive agenda-bolstering lie they didn’t like.

But never mind: Keith locked up his Ethics Dunce by re-introducing his “Worst Person in the World” segment, which he had solemnly, if unnecessarily, jettisoned on MSNBC to demonstrate his new commitment to civility in the wake of Rep. Giffords’ shooting in Tucson. Continue reading

“The Mentalist” Ethics: Patrick Jane Osamas “Red John”

Red John's bloody calling-card will be found at serial killing scenes no more.

Tonight marked the season finale of “The Mentalist” on CBS, and by happy coincidence, Bruno Heller’s odd-ball murder mystery drama ended with its hero, Patrick Jane (played with brio by the excellent Simon Baker) executing his nemesis, the serial killer “Red John,” in a crowded food court…a Osama bin Laden style killing that, like the death of the Al Qaida mastermind, was both technically illegal and completely ethical.

Bravo.

Red John, for those of you who do not follow “The Mentalist,” is the self-chosen monicker of a brilliant maniac with financial resources, who slaughtered California Bureau of Investigation consultant Jane’s family as well as untold others. Jane has spent the three years of the series in an Ahab-like quest for revenge, wittily solving other murders along the way. In the final episode, Red John plotted the death of Jane’s boss and maybe love interest, Theresa Lisbon, played by Robin Tunney. Red John’s henchman managed to kill two officers and wound Lisbon before he was foiled, leading to a dramatic confrontation between the serial killer himself and the hero. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room”

First time commenter Margo Schulter delivers a powerful, passionate and eloquent absolutist rebuttal to my post asserting an ethical defense of Osama bin Laden’s targeted killing/assassination/execution by U.S. military personnel. My immediate response to her can be found in the comments to the original post here; I don’t want to re-post it with this post because Margo’s thoughtful comment should be read and thought about prior to considering my rebuttal. Ethics Alarms is blessed with many sharp and persuasive comments, and this is one of the finest. In the grand tradition of absolutism, her answer to my question about firing the bullet that would kill an unarmed and submissive Osama  is “I wouldn’t fire that bullet to save the whole universe.” And she explains why:

“Please let me try to put my best foot forward, and keep a spirit of civility and friendly inquiry, as I say that my whole being — my guts, heart, intuition, and intellect –cry out, “No exceptions! Executions, extrajudicial or legal, are _wrong_!” I wonder what an MRI might show, and what neuroethics might say, about how people in the U.S.A. and elsewhere have such different reactions to what I would call a consummately evil and dehumanizing act.

“Please let me also apologize for the length of this comment, nevertheless just the starting point for a dialogue with lots of ramifications. How do pacifists like me see the scale of moral evils in different kinds of violence, and when might we consider using certain forms of nonlethal force? Also, there’s a way that President Obama might have modified his strategy a bit to fit Frances Kamm’s Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE), illustrating what I see as the dangers of this intellectually intriguing concept. I’d love to join a dialogue going in any or all of these directions.

“It’s curious. You write, “I assume you shoot him dead.” And my whole being cries out, “You assume wrong!” While I’m not a physicalist, I do recognize that while we’re in this world experience and behavior are mediated through the brain, so I wonder what an MRI or the like would show for
people who have these radically different intuitions. Continue reading

Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room

You are one of the Navy Seals raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound. Bin Laden rushes out, with a white flag, shouting “Mercy!”, “I surrender!” and “I’m so, so sorry!” He throws his flag down, puts his hands up, and falls to his knees, pleading for his life. What do you do?

I assume that you shoot him dead. I would. Is this ethically defensible? Continue reading