Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Photo

Adolf-Hitler

Officer Craig Eichhammer, a 31-year veteran of the Williamstown, Massachusetts police department, kept a photo of Adolf Hitler in his locker for two decades without incident. Two years ago, the photo was removed and thrown out when when the department staff moved into the new police station. The presence of the photo was raised as part of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in August 2020 by Sgt. Scott McGowan, who claims that he was retaliated against for decrying racial and sexual harassment by the Williamstown police chief.

In his statement to the town manager last year explaining the presence of a photo of Der Fuhrer, Eichhammer wrote that his former partner on the night shift in 1999 was kidded in the station for his supposed resemblance to Adolf. “I stuck the photograph on the locker wall just as one would of possibly hanging a comic strip or picture they thought was funny,” he wrote.

“The photo was out of view and could not be seen even with the locker door open. The photograph was put up for no other reason than a laugh factor poking fun at [his former partner]. The photo was left there and basically forgotten about. It stayed in the same spot for 20 years and no one knew it was there….At no time was it my belief that the picture was nothing more than a figure from a history book,” he added. “I had no ideologies of Nazi Germany, swastikas or anything terrible that happened during WW2. Again, the photo was simply just to get a laugh of the likeness of [his former partner].”

Okaaaay. But predictably, many are not satisfied with the officer’s explanation. A letter demanding his dismissal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated,

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The Unethical Ingredients Of The West Point High School Valedictorian Fiasco, Part II: What’s Going On Here? [Corrected]

Valedictorian

Who are the ethics villains, heroes, fools and otherwise in the West Point High School graduation honors debacle?

Observations:

Number One, and nothing else is even close: If society were capable of looking at human beings as human beings and not as members of teams, groups and tribes, this would have still been a mess, but a much less toxic one. There are groups, political parties, activists, irresponsible scholars and race-hucksters of all kinds who benefit and profit by dividing the United States along racial fault-lines, and they will do it for as long as they can, no matter what harm it does to the nation, families, individuals, institutions, values and the enjoyment of life. This is an example of what we have to dread in greater frequency and damage if we don’t find a way to stifle these villains, for that is what they are.

Related to this are accounts that the president of the local NAACP was elated. This isn’t a team sport: two young women were honored for their achievements, not their race. If it would be offensive for a local group to express pleasure that two white students received an honor, it is equally obnoxious and inappropriate for the NAACP to be making racial comments.

2 If the school counselor was really the culprit who used the wrong standard, he or she needs to go. Yes, the whole school is responsible, including the principal, but if ever a scapegoat was called for, however, this is it. Because of the predictable chain reaction, it was an inexcusable mistake. In Mississippi? In a predominantly black student body? The ethics alarms should have been ringing at ear-splitting volume before the grade calculations ever started. Quite simply, this was a mistake that must not be made.

3. Suspicions that race was a factor in using the wrong standard are inevitable at a time when so many standards are being attacked, eliminated or changed for not yielding the “right” results by the measure of “equity and diversity.” The fact that two black students were elevated above the white ones by the “mistaken” use of the wrong standard under the rules and tradition could have been a coincidence, but the white parents, and objective critics, have every reason to wonder, just as the black parents have every reason to suspect racial bias when the value of their children’s honor was cut in half to satisfy two white families.

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The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter II: Playing Rosa Parks

I don’t understand why this story should even be news, but the fact that it was treated as news, and worse, promoted as news by an NAACP official, is significant , disturbing, but, sadly, not at all surprising.

Sherrilyn Ifill,  the president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, was returning to Baltimore from New York on Amtrak last week  as she often does. She was sitting in a general-admission area of a largely empty passenger car when a female junior conductor asked her to leave her seat and move into another car  because she had “other people coming who she wants to give this seat.”

Now as it happens, I was once asked to move to another Amtrak car. I had no idea why, but assumed there was a good reason, and the inconvenience was negligible.  Maybe a large group was getting on at the next stop. It was, simply, not a big deal. I’ve been asked to change seats on airlines, too, sometimes with an explanation, sometimes not.

But then, I’m not a high official with a civil rights advocacy organization with an interest in exacerbating racial disharmony in order to sat in business. . Ifill tweeted, “When I was laying [the junior conductor] out to the conductor, at one point, I said, ‘I can sit where I want,’ and I thought, ‘This isn’t 1950.” Continue reading

From The Anti-Freedom of Speech Files: UConn And The Connecticut Hate Speech Law

The University of Connecticut  chapter of the NAACP is circulating a video that  shows two students walking through a parking lot blithely shouting out “nigger.” It also sent out a tweet stating, “If you have any information about this racist recording at UConn, please email naacpuconn1909@gmail.com We will not tolerate racist behavior on this campus.”

To make a relevant point at the outset, this is not “racist conduct,” but racist speech at most. Racist speech is constitutionally protected (that First Amendment thingy), but you wouldn’t know it from the Connecticut  law the two students have been charged with violating. It decrees:

Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.

Ridiculing individuals based on gender or sexual orientation is apparently just fine, though: it’s an old law.  The  charge is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50, or both.

Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj, the two idiots involved, face  possible expulsion from UConn for violating the school’s code of conduct. That’s a separate issue. A school has a right to make reasonable demands on student comportment, and civility, but what is “reasonable” is an ethical gray area. If the students thought they were alone, for example, I am not sure that a state school should be able to punish them. These morons were just shouting the offensive word into the air. Can they be punished for saying “nigger” in their dorm rooms, when they are alone? If the campus NAACP’s circulation of the video is what is disrupting the campus, why isn’t that a punishable offense? The NAACP circulating the video upset and offended more students than the parking lot shouts. Continue reading

The Black Jack O’ Lanterns

In Nyack, New York, a law firm purchased some designer black jack o’lanterns from “Bed, Bath, and Beyond” as office decorations. Some residents complained to a local TV channel and to the law firm, claiming that the decorations were “racist.”

The law firm, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, immediately removed them, and soon thereafter, the household accoutrements chain pulled the item from its inventory. Now the law firm is busy grovelling, especially after the local NAACP accused them of “extreme lack of sensitivity.”

I think he meant “a lack of extreme sensitivity.” Isn’t that more accurate?

“We understand that someone complained about them and so once we got word of that we immediately took them down,” said Mary Marzolla, a partner at the racist firm. “We represent people of all colors and faiths, and we would never do anything to exclude anyone from any community,” she added,

What? How do black painted or colored pumpkins exclude anyone from the community? Is she really saying that if an individual, no matter how foolish or addled, complains about anything, then the firm is ethically obligated take remedial action? Is that the standard?  Let’s test it: I’m complaining about the firm’s conduct in capitulating to an idiotic and manipulative claim of racism. OK, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, the ball’s in your court.

Satisfy me.

Is there no way in 2019 to tell a hypersensitive wacko, “I’m sorry, but you are a fool. There is nothing to be offended about. I do not have to cater to your paranoia or contrived sensitivities, and I will not.” Continue reading

Once Again, The Unwarranted Presumption Of Racism

“What’s that kid doing up there?”

If something undesirable happens to an African American, the culture is pushing the norm that the misfortune ought to be presumed to be the result of racism until decisively proven otherwise. Similarly, if a white individual is responsible for a black citizen’s plight, deserved or not, the white individual’s motivations are also presumed to be based on racial animus.

Both presumptions are nothing less than sanctified bias and prejudice, as much so as racism itself.

A case study from Washington, D.C.:

About a hundred seventh and eighth-grade students from Shelton Intermediate School in Shelton, Connecticut were visiting the nation’s Capital last week. The group was supervised by twelve chaperones, and the itinerary included the usual museums, monuments and landmarks, including the newest attraction, the Smithsonian’s  African American Museum.

While touring the museum, a male student leaned over a balcony and drooled or spit down on the visitors below. His saliva struck one of them, and the victim was black.  As a result of the incident, the entire group was ejected from the museum. Continue reading

Observations On The Hard Day’s Night Of Denver Mayoral Candidate Jamie Giellis

Yesterday, long, LONG time commenter Tim Levier alerted me to a local political foofaraw in Denver with significant ethical implications. I would have never heard about the story otherwise, and I am very grateful for this: please, everyone, try to make such tips a habit.

Incumbent mayor Michael Hancock and the challenger, Jamie Giellis, both Democrats, are headed to a run-off in a little under three weeks. Three days ago, Giellis found herself unable to say what the letters NAACP stood for during a radio interview (“This was falsely reported in some media sources as “she didn’t know what the NAACP was”). A few hours later, Giellis’ campaign advertised a “tacos and lowriders” fundraiser at a Mexican restaurant. Smelling blood, the Hader Gotcha practitioners did a deep dive and found that ten years ago, Giellis asked in a tweet why so many cities “feel it necessary to have Chinatowns.”

This was referred to by local wags as winning the the “Triple Crown” of race-related gaffes. Her reaction was to close public access to all of her social media accounts and to refuse to answer media questions. Finally an intrepid reporter cornered her (AT the “tacos and lowriders” event), resulting in this cringe-producing interview:

Observations: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2019: The NCAA Tournament, Colbert, Chris Rock, And Bullshit

Good Afternoon!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad for some reason, and that was his favorite hymn. It’s an Easter hymn, but our church always had the choir sing it on the special spring service. My unusually musically talented friends knocked it out of the park at my father’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. It also has the advantage of being composed by Arthur Sullivan, just like “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “Tit Willow.”

1. Fill out your brackets, and enable corruption. It’s the NCAA tournament again, and again, helping the schools and the NCAA and the networks make money off of the destructive and corrupt culture of big time college basketball is ethically indefensible. The New York Times wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it did recently write about the dissonance, beginning,

Every March, millions of Americans fill out brackets (more than 40 million people, by one count), cheer the underdogs and tune in on television. Others buy tickets to the games, wear jerseys of their favorite teams and let wins and losses dictate their mood. Yet fans who follow college basketball closely know about the game’s intractable relationship to corruption. Even many who come just for March Madness must know that the real madness is not always on the court.

A wide-ranging and fear-inducing F.B.I. investigation into college basketball recruiting continues to ensnare big-name colleges and little-known crooks. It is why Louisiana State, for example, is playing without its head coach, Will Wade, and why Auburn recently had an assistant coach suspended and a former assistant plead guilty of conspiracy for accepting bribes.

This week, the lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in exchange for concealing information he had about illicit payments to recruits. He has since revealedsome allegations on Twitter….

The Times doesn’t bother to go into the related problem of how basketball distorts academic goals, sucks away resources that should be used for education, and usually leaves its athletes no better educated than they were when they arrived. As you might expect, the Times’ writer is too ethically incompetent to provide and enlightenment. For example, he quotes one ethicist as saying, “…Someone thinks, ‘Gosh, this is unethical, but I love it so much, and my friends and I have such a good time rooting and cheering that I’m going to participate anyway.’” That description could also be used to justify gang rape. Can we have a little nuanced clarification? Then the Times writer, John Branch, offers these ill-devised analogies:

“Such internal debates permeate our culture. Is it O.K. to dance to a Michael Jackson song, to laugh to a Louis C.K. joke, to watch a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein? To cheer for football knowing what it may be doing to players’ brains?”

Let’s see: wrong, wrong,wrong, and…right.  1 for 4.

A Michael Jackson song isn’t corrupt, or unethical: it’s art. He’s dead: dancing to the song does not enable the misconduct. A joke is a joke regardless of who tells it, and again, laughing at a C.K. joke doesn’t make it more or less likely that he’s going to masturbate in front of a female colleague. Workplace misconduct doesn’t taint the work product, and nobody has claimed that movies themselves are culturally corrupting, or that Weinstein’s films harmed the actors in them.  Cheering for football is a legitimate comparison, because the sport itself is the problem, just like college basketball itself is the problem.

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Ethics Warm-Up, Valentines Day, 2018: Of Mummies, Mockingbirds, Hunchbacks, And Sperms….

Happy Valentines Day!

1 Jeremy gets a vacation! As some of you may know, philosopher Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill’s mentor and the founder of utilitarianism, has been stuffed and kept in a glass case at the College of London since his death in 1832 as a condition of his will. I’m not kidding! (A photo has appeared periodically in the Ethics Alarms header from the blog’s first day.) Here he is…

That’s Jeremy’s real head on the floor: the one on top of the stuffed body around his skeleton is wax. Jeremy still attends all meetings of the school’s board, wearing his own clothes.  Now he’s visiting the U.S., something he always wanted to do when he was alive.

2. The message is increasingly clear: everything is racist. Got it, thanks! Working from her mummy, scientists from the University of Bristol reconstructed the face of 3,400-year-old queen Nefertiti, King Tut’s mother, using 3D imaging technology. The process required more than 500 hours. Nefertiti was Egypt’s queen alongside Pharaoh Akhenaten from 1353 to 1336 BC. Heeeeeeere’s  NEFI!

Now the project is under attack on social media because the reconstructed Nefertiti face isn’t dark enough, not that anyone has a clue regarding how dark or light anyone who lived over 3000 years ago was.

This is the kind of gratuitous race-baiting that causes well-deserved backlash.  It’s also redolent of an old whitewashing theme, dating back to the “Cleopatra was black” and “Jesus was black” claims of activists in the 1970s.

3. Segue Alert! And speaking of stupid whitewashing controversies, the cancellation of that high school production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” because the student cast as the gypsy ingenue Esmeralda was “too white” provoked a backlash….from Nazis.

Naturally, this means that the race-based attack on the innocent student cast because she was the most qualified to play the part was justified, thanks to the trampoline effect when a bad idea is attacked by even worse extremists.  (Don’t make me put the cognitive dissonance scale up twice in one day.) The New York Times reports that the students who intimidated school administrators into cancelling the show “are now besieged by an online mob targeting them with threats and racial epithets after the incident was reported in right-wing publications like Breitbart News, then spread to the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. Via Facebook, the students received pictures of themselves with swastikas plastered on their faces. One parent had what was thought to be her home address (it wasn’t) posted online with a comment seeming to encourage harassment: “Do your thing social media.” Another parent received a profane email, assailing her for embracing “anti-white racism,” adding: “I feel sorry for your brainwashed child.” The way this phenomenon works is that now, when someone legitimately objects to the unethical handling of this episode by the school, they can be portrayed as agreeing with white supremacists.

We saw this effect in full bloom in Charlottesville. Tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee is a form of historical airbrushing and censorship, and principled, objective critics (like me) condemned the statue-toppling mania. Then the alt-right and the white nationalists marched against the removal of a Lee statue, and suddenly if you objected to a memorial to a major figure in American history and a bona fide military hero whose life is a wealth of lessons for all of us, it meant you were siding with racists.  President Trump was effectively trapped by this Catch-22. Continue reading

Playing The Race Card For Intimidation, Power, And Profit

“Nice little airline you got there. Too bad if anything were to happen to it…”

The NAACP has hit on a new, unethical and brilliant extortion tactic. The venerable civil rights group issued an advisory warning calling for black travelers to be cautious about flying on American Airlines. This prompted the airline’s chairman, in response, to announce that the company does not “and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” In a previous advisory, the organization told African-Americans to stay out of Missouri. Next, it will tell them not to watch Fox News.

The NAACP attributed its warning to what it called “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines.”  It cited four incidents  as examples that “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” Four incidents, of course, do not suggest a corporate culture or a pattern. How many white or Asian flyers have had similar confrontations? The NAACP doesn’t care, and I doubt it bothered to find out. The man who was dragged off a United flight in April was Asian. The female passenger who was allegedly struck by an American flight attendant earlier this year was white.  I consider myself abused by every airline I fly. Unfortunately, since I’m a Greek American, my only recourse is to conclude that the reason for my discomfort is that the industry is callous and incompetent, and its employees are poorly trained and supervised. If I were black, I would know my treatment was based on race. Continue reading