I Just Signed An Open Letter. This is Why:

Last week, professors, lecturers and academics across the country began signing the “Stanford Academic Freedom Declaration.” It is an open letter that calls on universities to restore free speech, academic freedom and institutional neutrality. The open letter asks universities and professors to adopt and implement the “Chicago Trifecta” — the Chicago Principles on unilateral free speech, the Kalven report that requires institutional neutrality on political and social topics, and the Shils report, making “academic contribution the sole basis for hiring and promotion.”  It is picking up metaphorical steam: several hundred new signatures have been entered since I first saw the document last night. One of them is mine: I qualify as a former adjunct professor of legal ethics.

Stanford economist and co-author John Cochrane is the first name on the list and presumably launched the letter. He told College Fix:

The larger hope is to bring back academic freedom on campus and in the academic enterprise more generally. Only with robust academic freedom, the ability to investigate ideas and bring out uncomfortable facts, does scholarship bring about new and reliable knowledge, especially on crucial issues to our society.

Who knows if this will have any impact or persuasive power? I am dubious about the use of such protest tools, but at least this one causes no harm even if it like the lonely tree falling in a forest. Trying to ensure that the letter has no effect is, of course, the mainstream media, which so far, at least, hasn’t deemed the effort newsworthy for a week. In the meantime, several news sources have devoted space to the fact that in China, a massive flock of sheep has been walking in a circle for 12 days straight. Priorities!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to do something proactive about this problem, which I view as an existential threat to American culture and society. Boycotting the recent class reunions of my college and law school was mandatory for me but also the equivalent of Grandpa Simpson shouting at clouds. My  Harvard reunion book essay explaining my position did attract a few kudos in the mail, all of which opined that there were many other class members who felt as I do but were afraid to make their views public.

Wow. Harvard apparently has graduated a lot of weenies. But I knew that.

I’ll be circulating the letter to my friends and associates who can sign it. It’s awfully open, which mean that if someone wanted to muck it up with fake names, gag names and other graffiti, they could. Right now, I’m the last name on the list, number 1,241. It will take about a hundred times that to make a ripple, I know.

It’s worth a shot.

Unethical (And Ominous) Quote Of The Month: 600 “Members Of The Writing, Publishing, And Broader Literary Community”[Link Fixed]

“As members of the writing, publishing, and broader literary community of the United States, we care deeply about freedom of speech. We also believe it is imperative that publishers uphold their dedication to freedom of speech with a duty of care. We recognize that harm is done to a democracy not only in the form of censorship, but also in the form of assault on inalienable human rights. As such, we are calling on Penguin Random House to recognize its own history and corporate responsibility commitments by reevaluating its decision to move forward with publishing Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s forthcoming book….”

—Signatories (600 and rising) from the world of publishing in an open letter titled “We Dissent,” demanding that Penguin Random House refuse to publish a book by Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Here is the whole, head-exploding, censorious thing, an “it isn’t what it is” (Yoo’s Rationalization again!) classic that could have been composed by the lackeys of “1984’s” Big Brother: Continue reading

Two Open Letters…

 

 From the sublime to the absurd…

Yesterday, RealClearPolitics published an open letter from Brown University professor Glenn Loury and the founder of The Woodson Center, Robert Woodson Sr., denouncing the  attacks aimed at Justice Clarence Thomas following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling and Thomas’ provocative concurring opinion. It’s a nicely direct and necessary condemnation:

White progressives do not have the moral authority to excommunicate a black man from his race because they disagree with him. And those – regardless of background – who join in the charade or remain silent are guilty of enabling this abuse.

We, the undersigned, condemn the barrage of racist, vicious, and ugly personal attacks that we are witnessing on Clarence Thomas – a sitting Supreme Court justice. Whether it is calling him a racist slur, an “Uncle Tom” or questioning his “blackness” over his jurisprudence, the disparagement of this man, of his faith and of his character, is abominable.

Regardless of where one stands on Justice Thomas’ personal or legal opinions, he is among the pantheon of black trailblazers throughout American history and is a model of integrity, scholarship, steadfastness, resilience, and commitment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

For three decades Justice Thomas has served as a model for our children. He has long been honored and celebrated by black people in this country and his attackers do not speak for the majority of blacks.He is entirely undeserving of the vitriol directed at him.

Character assassination has become too convenient a tool for eviscerating those who dare dissent from the prevailing agenda, especially when it is a black man who is dissenting.This is not about the content of the court’s decisions or Justice Thomas’ personal views; some of the undersigned agree with his judicial decisions and some do not.

We speak out – as black people and Americans – to condemn these attacks and support Justice Thomas, because to remain silent would be to implicitly endorse these poisonous schemes as well as his destruction.

Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Week: Faculty Letter To GULC Dean Treanor In Support Of Illya Shapiro [CORRECTED]

So far, 106 professors from all points on the ideological spectrum have signed a letter to Georgetown Law Center’s Dean Treanor, telling him what should not have to be explained to a Top 20 law school dean: that “academic freedom protects [Illya] Shapiro’s views, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities.”

Shapiro, as discussed here, has been suspended (“put on leave pending an investigation”) by Treanor, and if past behavior by Georgetown Law Center is any indication, he is likely to be fired, forced to resign, or to have to humiliate himself by submitting to “sensitivity training” after a public confession of WrongThink.

Here is the letter, which appears to have been coordinated by the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education. Those seeking to add their names to the signatories can email facultyoutreach@thefire.org.

Disgracefully, no member of the GULC faculty has signed the letter to support their colleague—and the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom at their own institution—as of this writing. Continue reading

Jennifer Williams’ Three Questions

Harpers’ “anti-cancel culture” letter, discussed here was instructive, but not in the manner that its sponsors intended. It excluded most conservatives (except Stockholm Syndrome types like David Brooks) and all of those who had been damaged by progressive cancel-mobs, making the exercise suspect as Left-wing grandstanding. Worse, an alarming number of progressives who didn’t sign the letter expressed disappointment that others did, because they fervently believe that expressing opinions that vary from woke cant should be punished, and that (though they won’t come right out and say it) free expression is undesirable. Hate speech, you know—makes people feel “unsafe” to have to associate with the unenlightened.

For some reason the criticism centered on Vox, the website begun by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein when pretending to be anything but a partisan shill became  too much for him. Vox is as biased leftward as Breitbart is biased in the other direction, which is why I seldom use, and never trust, either. Several Vox employees publicly objected to the fact that their colleague Matt Yglesias signed the letter, apparently forgetting that Yglesias, “by any means necessary” fan that he is, once admitted.

In response to the uproar, senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams tweeted,

What a fascinating set of ethics questions!

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Question #2, the one Williams answers, is apparently not as obvious as she seems to think it is. Tufts University history lecturer Kerri Greenidge demanded  to have her name  removed from the list of signers, claiming that her name  was used without her knowledge or consent. “I do not endorse this @ Harpers letter,” Prof. Greenidge tweeted. “I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction.” The Tufts historian’s sisters, novelist and New York Times opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge and playwright Kirsten Greenidge also asserted  that Kerri was included among the signatories without her consent or knowledge.

Prof. Greenidge was lying—to the public, and to her family. Harper’s quickly produced an email exchange from late June in which Greenidge agreed to sign. “Yes, I will add my signature. It reads well,” Greenidge wrote from her Tufts email address. “Let me know what more you need from me.”

“Oh, just a promise that you won’t cave like a wet cardboard box and start blaming us if some of your progressive pals and family members complain, I guess,” is what Harper’s should have responded. Continue reading

Oh, So NOW You Support Free Expression! [CORRECTED]

In Harpers, a grab-bag of pundits, artists, has-beens and assorted progressives/liberals were persuaded to sign an open letter protesting the “cancel culture” and bemoaning its suffocating effect on free expression and debate.

Tangent: Lots of people wrote that they didn’t recognize most of the names. I know 28 of them, and several, like Ron Sullivan, Emily Yoffe, and Dahlia Lithwick, have been subjects of posts here. Not only that, one signer is a college classmate (Nadine Strossen) and another, Diedre McCloskey, was a next door neighbor when I lived with my parents in Arlington, Mass.)

“Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement,” the epistle says in part.

Apparently allowing prominent conservatives to sign the letter was considered “divisive,” or the organizers could only get the leftists to join in if the righties were excluded. This restriction of expression in a letter about censorship undercuts the message, don’t you think? To make sure no dedicated conservatives agitated to sign, the letter cleverly included this poison pill:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

Ann Althouse yesterday properly and vigorously flagged this as the disingenuous BS it is, writing, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Facebook Users Are Actually Posting This. It Shows Scrambled Ethics Alarms.”

It’s story time, courtesy of Steve-O-in -NJ, who was inspired by the obnoxious, hopefully fake internet message going around the web purporting to be a dressing-down of “inconsiderate” shoppers who “browse.”  He recounts a related episode I apparently missed, with trenchant commentary.

Here is Steve-O-in -NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Facebook Users Are Actually Posting This. It Shows Scrambled Ethics Alarms.”

It reminds me of the list some bitter soon-to-be-former employee of Borders Books and Music wrote on a whiteboard and put up right before the whole chain closed in 2011 due to various factors, mostly the expansion of amazon and missing the boat on the e-reader market. I’ll run through it, adding my own commentary:

Things you never knew about Borders Employees:

    • We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.

What, so it means you’ll sell more of that book? How does that hurt you?

    • It confused us when we were asked where the non-fiction section is.

It shouldn’t. Anyone older than eight knows the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Yes, non-fiction is pretty broad, but that’s easily answered with a question to try to narrow what the person is looking for.

    • Nicholas Sparks is not a good writer … if you like him, fine, but facts are facts.

No, that’s your opinion, which counts for exactly nothing here. Just who made you, a skinny, bored, can’t-be-bothered-to-do-more-than-the-bare-minimum, clueless twenty-something, an authority on what constitutes a good writer? Your job is to sell books, not critique them, and certainly not to pass judgment on customer choices. You want to become a book critic, see if the local paper is hiring.

    • We greatly dislike the phrase “Quick question.” It’s never true. And everyone seems to have one.

Then get a job flipping burgers. Answering questions is part of the job.

    • Your summer reading list was our summer reading NIGHTMARE. Also, it’s called summer reading, not three days before school starts reading. Continue reading

Facebook Users Are Actually Posting This. It Shows Scrambled Ethics Alarms.

A Facebook friend really and truly posted this and encouraged people to pass it along.

He apparently thinks it’s reasonable and profound. In fact, the message is obnoxious and unethical.

  • It’s a lie. It doesn’t speak for employees of those stores.  It certainly doesn’t speak for all of them, as it claims. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t even written by an employee of any of those stores.
  • So someone is posting messages on behalf of people who didn’t consent to it, and sending offensive messages to their employers’ customers. Nice. And my Facebook friend, who once had a functioning mind, thinks this is praise-worthy.
  • If I received one of these from the management of a store I patronized, that store would never get my business again. If I was the management of one of these stores and learned that one or more of my employees were involved in circulating such a message, I would terminate those employees  for cause.
  • This is what happens when the chic thing to do is to call anyone doing their jobs “heroes.”  I appreciate workers in grocery stores and other businesses, but then I always do.  For example, I talk to them, thank them, and don’t do business with them while talking on my cell phone. I tip them frequently and generously, like I did the guy who was spraying disinfectant on grocery cart handles yesterday. I do not and will not appreciate any employees behaving like I am beholden to them because I bring business to their stores that allows those stores to keep them employed. Continue reading

On The Recent Steele Dossier Revelations: An Open Letter To An Un-Named Former Ethics Alarms Commenter, Written In Disappointment And Disgust

Dear You Know Who You Are,

As you remember, well over a year ago you staged a grandstanding, insulting exit from participation on this blog, declaring that I had “drunk the Kool-Aid.”  Your false claim was provoked because I had successfully navigated through  lies, calculated disinformation and lawbreaking—engineered by those within and without the U.S. government—to conclude that a coordinated effort had been and was underway to overthrow the elected President of the United States. At this point, the fact that your accusation was based on your own blindness and bias is not subject to rational denial or debate.

I knew that at the time, of course. I also felt, and feel, that for you to behave that way, in public, here, was a personal as well as a professional betrayal. We had, I thought, a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. We had exchanged details about the high and low points of our lives face to face.  We are in the same field and profession. I trusted you.

I have provided you some slack in my ultimate judgment on your character because I know that, as we say here often, bias makes us stupid, even the best of us. I have seen this particular bias make many people, even some smarter than you, as difficult as it may be for you to conceive of that, both stupid and  destructive, apparently without a glimmer of self-realization. I recognize that it the phenomenon is, at this point, indistinguishable from an illness, one triggered by emotion and group-think. Thus I am, up to a point, sympathetic, just as I am regarding so many of my Facebook friends who figuratively make asses of themselves every single day  because they are addicted to “likes” and peer approval. Some of them are even lawyers, but you know…lawyers. That is a professional group, along with historians, politicians, historians, scholars, psychiatrist, educators and, of course, journalists, that has broken its duty of trust with the public as it joined a dangerous and unconscionable effort to break our democracy. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: The French Anti-#MeToo Letter

This translated open letter received a lot of publicity last week, in part because the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve signed it (that’s her, above, with Harvey Weinstein) , along with writer/psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche,  author/art critic Catherine Millet, actress/writer Catherine Robbe-Grillet, journalist  Peggy Sastre (author/journalist) and writer/journalist Abnousse Shalmani. It was signed by over a hundred other women.

The entire letter is important, and should be read by anyone interested in this issue—and everyone should be interested. All of the letter is ethically dead on, except one crucial element: workplace harassment is not trivial, as the letter mistakenly suggests. The letter states near the beginning:

“This summary justice has already had its victims: men who’ve been disciplined in the workplace, forced to resign, and so on., when their only crime was to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about “intimate” things during a work meal, or send sexually-charged messages to women who did not return their interest.”

The French just do not get this. I have seen it, fought it, and trained companies about it: supervisors using the workplace as a dating bar harms women, even when the particular target is receptive. It is a crucial component of the glass ceiling and fuels sexual discrimination, every one of those behaviors mentioned above can create a hostile workplace. Men who engage in such conduct, if the conduct can be proven, should be disciplined, as a matter of policy and ethics.

The rest of the letter is excellent.

Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary. But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!

Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to the defenseless prey of male chauvinist demons.

Ratting out and calling out Continue reading