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

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition”

JP’s Comment of the Day actually was sent in today, and so, despite the injustice of allowing him to jump in line (for there still are Comments of the Day from the Holiday Challenge of two days ago awaiting their honors), I’ve decided that this one should be published in close proximity to its target, which was #1 in today’s Warm-up, about Frank Bruni’s column,  “Higher Ed’s Low Moment, in the Times today. You should read Bruni’s column first to be fair to fine JP’s work, which is in the form of an open letter.

Here is JP’s epic Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition: 

Dear Mr. Bruni,

Thank you for that colorful article you posted in the NYT. As a college graduate from two universities (almost three), I can appreciate what you said regarding higher learning and its importance on the future of Americans (and in general the world). You see, I agree there is a lot that college has to teach us. Higher education should be focused, involve critical thinking, and provide much-needed life skills that are just not acquired at the at the high school level. While these could have been excellent points when defending the role of colleges and universities, you chose to skip right over them altogether. Instead, you chose to write about how people are wrong to not trust the system with not so subtle attacks on Trump, the Republicans, and the recent tax law.

I will give you some credit. You were able to point out some reasons why some of that trust is not there. You wrote, “I also hear more college presidents talking with more concern about their campuses’ images as enclaves of a distinctly illiberal liberalism. Especially ugly episodes this year at Middlebury College and The Evergreen State College fed that impression and, I think, increased many presidents’ resolve to do something about it.”

You also pay due attention to the much-noted lack of political diversity on campuses. However, it is clear from your article you believe these examples to be trivial based on your piece’s lack of focus, language used, and quick transitions.

With that in mind, let me ask you a question, Mr. Bruni:

Have you been hiding under a rock these last 10 years, or are you just so hidden in your elitist tower you can’t see Rome burning around you?

There are many good reasons that the public doesn’t trust college campus anymore. Follow me a little bit as I explore reasons.

The Teachers.

Just this past year alone we have witnessed a number of statements made by the professionals whose job it is to shape the minds of these students. These are the people who direct them, but with statements like the following, it is a wonder we haven’t had more students following the actual advice made by them (perhaps I don’t give these students enough credit on their critical thinking skills).

  • One professor at Montclair State University wished someone would shoot President Trump outright. He was later let go.
  • Another professor at Austin Community College said it was ok with him if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted. He later quit.
  • A University of Tampa Professor said Hurricane Harvey was “Instant Karma” for Texas because it was a red state. Nevermind that Houston, the heaviest area affected voted Democrat (moral luck) during the previous election, this professor had to get his two cents in. He was fired as well.
  • A Drexel professor said the shooting in Vegas this past year is what happens when white people don’t get what they want. His last day is officially today.

What is notable here is 70% of the staff tried to get his full reinstatement. This is somewhat bewildering because the professor is no stranger to racist tweets. writing last Christmas that the white genocide during the Haitian Revolution was a good thing. But of course if you here him, this was just a joke.

There are many more; this last is just icing on the cake:  A professor at California State University tweeted that Trump must be hanged. He later tweeted that “Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.” This isn’t even retribution theology, it is just advocating for murder. He will be teaching again in the spring. Continue reading

Weeping And Screaming At The Sky: Dear Democrats, Progressives, And “The Resistance,” Are You Embarrassed Yet? Why Not?

The emerging strategy of the traumatized and indignant Left since the debacle of last November 8 has been, it seems, to try to cause President Trump to snap, so he would do something that unequivocally justifies removing him from office. Actively trying to drive your elected leader nuts is border-line treasonous, of course, so this strategy is unethical, but never mind: so far, it’s not working. Instead, President Trump’s foes are the ones snapping like dry twigs in the woods. The spectacle is unprecedented in U.S. history, and should be so embarrassing to the un-snapped members of the President’s opposition that it is disturbing that they are not yet  wearing bags over their heads and thinking about witness protection.

The anti-Trump forces could justifiably be ashamed to be associated with all the academics who have thoroughly beclowned themselves, like Harvard’s deluded Larry Lessig, and the long-snapped government ethics specialist Richard Painter, who is back to peddling a false theory of how the 25th Amendment works in order to bootstrap an impossible plan to remove Trump. Then there is the risible  $10,000,000 ad campaign by frustrated billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, calling for Trump’s impeachment without being able to articulate a single basis that would pass logical, legal or Constitutional muster. Maxine Waters is going full demagogue (you never go full demagogue) in her own obstinately ignorant proclamations that an elected President can and should be removed because the Congressional Black Caucus disapproves of his tweets, while the official leadership of her party—which, incredibly, just added disgraced cheat Donna Brazile to its ranks, signalling it vales and priorities— opposes the most uncivil and boorish of Chief Executives by routinely seasoning their own diatribes with words like “shit” and “fuck.” Meanwhile, the defeated Democratic standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is on a tone-deaf “blame everybody” tour while multiple scandals surrounding her own campaign revive and emerge, as she establishes herself as the least graceful, whiniest, worst loser in American Presidential annals by approximately ten laps.

All of this and more is certainly bag-worthy, but compared to developments this week, they are badges of honor. Behold: Continue reading

The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

West Point graduate and infantry officer Spenser Rapone recently caused a sensation through his advocacy and support of communism, while being an “official socialist organizer” of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Rapone recently posted a photo of himself as part of a declaration of support for professional football player Colin Kaepernick, including the phrase “Communism will win” with the tag “Veterans for Kaepernick.”  Rapone later posted a second photo of himself in uniform with a Che Guevara T-shirt underneath his jacket.That led to scrutiny of the hundreds of pro-Communist tweets by the former cadet, including one  calling Defense Secretary James Mattis “evil” and “vile” and another saying he will “happily dance” on the grave of Sen. John McCain.

This was not extensively covered by the mainstream media—After all, what’s the matter with Communists, as long as they don’t help Donald Trump?—though some attention was paid when Senator Rubio demanded that the Army remove Rapone. The Army said last week is it investigating and that the posts “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

I sure hope not!

Now the military community and others are asking how this is possible, and how West Point could produce a  graduate like Rapone.  In response to the episode, retired LTC Robert M. Heffington has written an open letter about what he sees as the deterioration of the culture at the storied military academy. Heffington was an assistant professor at West Point for several years, until this past August.

Note, please…

I. This is how one blows a whistle.

II.  Heffington describes how cultures rot: inattention,  poor leadership, refusal to apply standards, corruption from political agendas, silence from within.

III. Desperate and politically driven efforts to achieve diversity at the expense of integrity and quality are a major factor.

IV. West Point is a part of the higher education community. It would be surprising if it were immune from the same deterioration that the rest of America’s colleges and universities are suffering from. Thus this passage…

“…an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum (at West Point!). In all courses, the bar has been lowered to the point where it is irrelevant. If a cadet fails a course, the instructor is blamed, so instructors are incentivized to pass everyone. Additionally, instead of responding to cadet failure with an insistence that cadets rise to the challenge and meet the standard, the bar for passing the course itself is simply lowered. This pattern is widespread and pervades every academic department.”

V. Before I read the letter, I guessed that it would have a passage like this one, and sure enough:

“The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.”

VI. Repairing a broken culture is a long and difficult process. It involves…

Exposure

Acknowledgement

Intervention

Investigation

Transparency

Resolve

Punishment

Dedication to standards and values

Measurable goals

New leadership

Oversight

Refusal to compromise

Routine Assessment of progress

 Robert M. Heffington is an Ethics Hero. Here is his remarkable and remarkably disturbing letter: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2017: A Rude Librarian, Another Incoherent Knee, I Need To Start Listening To My Own Lectures, And Did YOU Know That “Green Eggs And Ham” Was Racist?

Good Morning!

1 In the middle of yesterday’s continuing legal education seminar on technology and legal ethics, I was telling the attendees about the dangers of all things Google. As I was explaining why lawyers should never, never do legal business on a gmail account, I added that they also have an obligation to tell their clients that there is not a sufficient expectation of privacy when they use gmail to communicate with their attorney. Then I literally froze and stared into space.

“I just realized that one of my recent consulting clients, a lawyer, has been sending all of his communications and documents to me using gmail,” I said. I had noticed it, but it still didn’t trigger the response that I have been teaching to others for at least three years.

As a wise man once said, “D’oh!”

2. In the “I can keep it up as long as they can” category: There is now a viral photo of some idiot taking a kneel  during Taps at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Continue reading