Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 6/5/18: Cakes And Fakes

Good morning…

1. Dummies or Liars? In a comment about yesterday’s 7-2 SCOTUS ruling favoring the Christian cake shop in another baker vs. gay couple controversy, Still Spartan wrote, ” I also don’t want to spend the next few months explaining the ruling to non-lawyer liberals who already are beginning to tear their hair out because they don’t understand the opinion.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she will have to do, and the rest of us, as there is already a deliberate effort underway to misrepresent the decision and deceive members of the public too lazy to read Supreme Court opinions, or too under-educated to understand them. (It really isn’t that hard.) This is fear-mongering, and also an effort to undermine the Supreme Court, which can be expected to be blocking a number of left-driven totalitarian measures in the not-too-distant future.

For example, on “The Late Show,” where a disturbingly high percentage of millennials get their news commentary, the smug, insufferable Stephen Colbert described the ruling this way:

“It’s a bad day for gay rights in America. And also for cake rights because this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple. That is tough news. But to lighten the blow the Supreme Court did send the gay couple a lovely cake” which was a cake in the shape of the middle finger.

Hilarious! And a complete misrepresentation of the opinion. The question is, did Colbert and his writers really not understand the ruling? What are the odds that any of them read it? If they didn’t know what the ruling was, isn’t it irresponsible to pass along false information? Or did they know that the opinion in no way undermined the rights of gays to be served in public accommodations like everyone else, but found, and correctly so, that the process was rigged against the baker because of open hostility to religious freedom? If so, the “joke” was deliberate misrepresentation.

The fact that the lie would have been in service of a joke is not a justification. Spreading falsity in public is harmful, and it does not matter who does it, or why.

2. From the “Stop making me defend the New York Yankees!” files:  This is an integrity vs. cash test for Major League Baseball. ESPN announced that it was picking up the Yankees’ one 1 o’clock Sunday, July 8 game with the Blue Jays in Toronto for its 8 p.m. Sunday night Game of the Week. This decision, however, was announced after the Yankees and Orioles players agreed to make up last week’s rained out game as part of a doubleheader on July 9.  As now scheduled, the Yankees will have to play three games in a 24 hour period. The Yankees would probably not leave the ballpark in Toronto until midnight, then have to go through customs, getting into Baltimore at 4 or 5 a.m., into their hotel rooms around 7, and be due at Camden Yards in a few hours.

This is potentially dangerous to the players (baseball is hard to play while asleep), and also undermines the team: the Yankees are expected to be in a neck-and-neck race with the Boston Red Sox for primacy in the American League East, and a single game could be crucial. If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are threatening to retaliate against ESPN by refusing all interviews with ESPN broadcasters. Of course, killing those in-game interviews will only improve the broadcast.

Then the Yankees will claim that the Red Sox were colluding with ESPN, and there will have to be an investigation… Continue reading

On The NFL Player’s Slur, The MSNBC Journalist’s Lie, Words, Conduct, Reason And Proportion

If Riley Cooper were black, of course, then he would be "cool."

If Riley Cooper were black, of course, then he would be “cool.”

There are words, there are thoughts, and there is conduct. Thoughts are not unethical.  Conduct can be unethical. Words can be considered conduct when they are intended to have, or do have, material and measurable direct effects. Verbal abuse is conduct. Using a rude, vulgar or hateful word may not be verbal abuse.

Although the NFL and his team, the Philadelphia Eagles have every right, and some good reasons, to punish, suspend or even terminate Riley Cooper because a video reveals the Eagles player as saying, “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here!” at a Kenny Chesney concert, I don’t see any conduct there, just words. He did not direct the racial slur at any individual, and there is no evidence that it was intended to harm or intimidate any African-Americans. He did not intend for the outburst to be publicized of communicated to anyone but the friends he said it to. On a pure  just punishment for harm intended or achieved basis, it is ridiculous for Cooper to be facing the loss of millions and his athletic career because he uttered a single racial slur that was captured on a video. It cannot be defended logically or as a reasonable position. Using one racial slur in that setting doesn’t prove that Cooper is a racist. It doesn’t prove hate. Even if it did, hate is not illegal or even unethical until the hater acts on it in an unethical way. And a word is just a word. We don’t, or shouldn’t, fear mere words in a rational American society. We shouldn’t have taboos, or people who “cannnot be named,” like in the Harry Potter books. The ease and certitude with which otherwise intelligent people capable of making judgments involving proportion and common sense blithely go along with the batty idea that uttering a word, only uttering it and nothing more, should result in devastating consequences, is frightening. It is a per se unethical position, because it is unfair, and incompetent, because it is essentially crazy.

Having said that, I can understand why, since so many people are irrational about words, why the NFL or the Philadelphia Eagles, as a business decision, may decide that they don’t want Cooper associated with them any more. That is a rational choice, and may even be the best choice. That is not the same as saying that he deserves that result. If the bulk of NFL fans are fanatically politically correct, then the NFL and its teams cannot afford to ignore that. Sorry Riley. Continue reading