Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/21/17: Fake Bravery, Mysterious Hate Speech, Vindictive Ex-Presidents, And The Trans Fold-Out

I confess: I miss New England…

Good Morning.

Thank God it’s Saturday.

1 The definition of “courage” being used to describe some of the late-to-the-party revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s victims is more than a bit off.  For example, Academy Award  winner Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed, in which she talked about her own harassment by Weinstein, was hailed by Kerry Washington, Ellen DeGeneris and others, including singer Janelle Monae, who wrote, “My hero. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for using your voice.”

Bravery? Nyong’o’s piece could be fairly described as kicking a dead horse when he’s down. There is no danger to Nyong’o now in joining the throng accusing and exposing Weinstein, whose head is on a metaphorical pike in Hollywood. Indeed, claiming victimhood now acquires sympathy and declares that one is joining one’s peers in a virtuous quest. There is nothing wrong with her op-ed or the fact that she wrote it, but it isn’t brave. It would have been brave if she had written it while Weinstein had power…and was still using that power to intimidate and exploit actresses

2.  A recent quiz in the New York Times threw some light, or maybe ice water, on the concept of “hate speech.” The quiz asked Times readers to judge whether a statement was hate speech, and contrasted the results with Facebook’s hate speech policy, and the kind of statement would be removed from the social media platform as violating its standards. Facebook defines hate speech as:

  1. An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
  2. Targeting a “protected category” of people, including one based on sex, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.

Here were the samples; Times readers were asked to vote yes or no to the question, “Would this statement meet Facebook’s criteria for hate speech?”

A. “Why do Indians always smell like curry?! They stink!”

B. “Poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus.”

C. “White men are assholes.”

D. “Keep ‘trans’ men out of girls bathrooms!”

E. “Female sports reporters need to be hit in the head with hockey pucks.”

F. I’ll never trust a Muslim immigrant… they’re all thieves and robbers.”

The Answers:

A. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 75% yes, 25% no.

B. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 92% yes, 8% no.

C. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 48% yes, 52% no.

D. Facebook: It depends on the context. Times readers: 57% yes, 43% no.

E. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 80% yes, 20% no.

F. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 91% yes, 9% no.

Ethics Alarms: the concept of hate speech is a dangerous, intentionally vague, manufactured category of speech pointing to restrictions of free expression. There is hateful speech, insulting speech, bigoted speech, biased speech, cruel speech, uncivil speech and rude speech, but all of it is still protected speech.

The tell is C. Times readers only voted that one statement wasn’t hate speech, the one that denigrated all white men. Of course they did. By Facebook standards, that vote is hate speech. I think.

Facebook can ban whatever speech it chooses, of course. The fact that it engages in this kind of vague, inconsistent, bias-laden censorship, however, tells us how much we should trust it: Not at all.

3. Speaking of bias, the Trump-haters in the news media—which is to say, the news media—were thrilled that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered, on the same day, statements that were taken as rebukes to President Trump without mentioning him by name. Both Presidents were treading in serious hypocrisy mine fields, and neither were called on it sufficiently. Bush spoke of “fading confidence” in free markets: Gee, who was President when insufficiently regulated capitalists crashed the world economy? Obama, even more cynically, pointed to social, racial and economic schisms after his eight years of aggravating and exploiting them. Both Bush and Obama—and for them, this is a despicable ethics foul—conflated illegal immigration with immigration, to the seal-flipper applause of the open-border crowd.

The significance of these dual attacks is less than it appears. Bothex-POTUSes are motivated by personal animus and as well as personal bias. President Trump is doing an excellent job, as promised, of erasing Obama’s few substantive achievements and policy initiatives from the record, and he has only been at it for less than a year. Are you a a successful President if the primary lasting effect of your administration is reversal of progress in racial reconciliation? Obama’s enmity is predictable, but hardly based on objective consideration. Bush’s attack is even less so.  Candidate Trump’s attacks on President Bush’s brother were nasty and personal; the entire family has made no secret of the fact that it won’t forget, and hates the President’s guts/

The real ethics lesson, as well as a practical policy lesson is that being gratuitously mean to people isn’t just unethical, it is incompetent for a leader. This is one more area where the President shows a self-destructive lack of control and prudence as well as a flat learning curve. At a recent event, Paul Ryan, another target of Trump’s personal insults, mocked the President. John McCain has clearly decided that he will do whatever he can to undermine him until his last breath. Not only do the various public figures Trump needlessly insults and attacks occasionally have the opportunity to strike back in substantive ways, they also have supporters who will side with them even when those strikes are unfair or petty.

Deliberately making enemies is an example of life incompetence. It is so for a librarian or a short-order cook; it is even more so for a leader. It just makes it harder for you to do your job.

Why would you do that?

4. And now that Hugh Heffner is dead, Playboy is trying to make him roll over in his grave by announcing that it will have its first transgender Playmate.

Is this Ick, or ethics? Presumably, if the magazine has any integrity at all, Playboy chooses its Playmates according to their aesthetic qualities, not their medical history. These are women. Stipulated: French model Ines Rau is a woman, now.  Why is her selection focusing on how she got to be one?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Rau wasn’t chosen because she is a beautiful woman, though I am not saying that she isn’t. She was chosen because she is transgender, and beautiful enough. This was affirmative action. Reports say she is honored. Why isn’t she insulted? If President Obama told Sonia Sotomayor that she was being nominated as a Supreme Court Justice not because she is especially qualified, but because she is Hispanic, would Sotomayor have been pleased?

Rau is being exploited, as Playboy treats the transgender social issue as a fad, to sell magazines and get publicity. Predictably, many of Playboy’s readers are objecting for the wrong reasons: they are bigots. Playboy’s social media response is telling: “Standing on the right side of history.” This is, as Ethics Alarms has pointed out before, a facile dodge and a rationalization. “We’re on the right side of history” is weak variation of the Number 1 rationalization on the list, “Everybody does it.” It means “Everybody’s going to do it, just you wait and see.”

Color me dubious. Heterosexual men who buy girlie magazines are going to find transgender women more beautiful and sexually arousing because they once were biologically male?

Sure, Playboy. Whatever you say.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2017: Puerto Rico, Baseball Ethics, And Good Riddance To Hugh Hefner

Gooood Morning October!

1 And with October comes the wonderful post-season of that all-American sports that does not leave its athletes with brain disease, that requires some erudition and an attention span longer than a terrier puppy’s to appreciate, and that does not subject its fans to incoherent political theater as part of the price of watching a game. Yes, “it’s baseball, Ray.”

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox finally clinched the America League East title, the first time in over a century that this perverse team has won a championship in consecutive years. In other words, nothing can spoil my mood today.

There are a couple of baseball ethics notes, too:

  • In Miami, Giancarlo Stanton has one last game to hit his 60th home run, which would make him the sixth major league to reach that mark in baseball history. Two of the six, Babe Ruth, whose 60 homers in 1927 stood as the season record for 34 years, and Roger Maris, the Yankee who broke the record with 61 in something of a fluke season, reached the mark fairly. The other three, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, were steroid cheats. Ever since Stanton caught fire after the All-Star break and looked for a while as if he would exceed 61, wags have been saying that he would become the “real” record holder, since the totals of Mark, Sammy and Barry ( 73, the current record, in 2001) shouldn’t count. Of course they should count. They have to count. The games were official, the runs counted, the homers are reflected in the statistics of the pitchers, the teams, and records of the sport. Bonds should have been suspended before he broke any records, but baseball blew it. Saying his homers (and Sosa’s, and McGwire’s) don’t count is like arguing that Samuel J. Tilden, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were elected President.

Integrity exists in layers, and the ultimate integrity is accepting reality. The 1919 Reds won the World Series, fixed or not. O.J. is innocent in the eyes of the law, and Roger Maris no longer holds baseball single season home run record.

  • In Kansas City, manager Ned Yost did something gracious, generous, and strange. The Royals, a small market team that won two championships with a core of home grown, low-visibility stars, now face losing all or most of them to big free agent contracts that the team simply cannot afford. Fans are often bitter about such venal exits, and teams usually fan the flames of resentment: better that the market be angry at the players than the organization. After Red Sox fan favorite Johnny Damon, a popular symbol of the 2004 World Series winning club, left for greener pastures in the New York Yankees outfield, he was jeered every time he came to bat in Fenway Park for the rest of his career.

But Ned Yost, who will be left with a shell of his team and a new bunch of kids to manage in KC next year, was not going to let the players who made him a winner depart amidst anger and recriminations. During yesterday’s 4-3 victory in front of the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, Yost engineered an emotional curtain call for all four of the players who were probably playing their last games as Royals.

He pulled them from the game, one by one, all while the team was in the field or the player on the bases, so each could get a long standing ovation: Eric Hosmer in the moments before the fifth inning; Mike Moustakas with one out in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain for a pinch runner. Alcides Escobar in the middle of the seventh.

Nice.

And none of them took a knee on the way out…

2. I have been researching to find any objective reports that support the claim that the federal government and FEMA are not doing their best to help Puerto Rico. There aren’t any. There are plenty of videos of the devastation, but even the New York Times, which is the head cheerleader for anti-Trump porn, has only been able to muster headlines about the relief effort being criticized. All of my Facebook friends writing—it’s really dumb, everybody—about how Trump is uncaring as they signal their virtue by telling us how their hearts go out to the residents of the island literally know nothing about the relief efforts. They don’t know anything about the planning, the logistics, the problems or what is feasible. Nonetheless, they think they have standing to say that it is incompetent, or slow (which means, slower than it has to be), or, and  anyone who says this better not say it to me, based on racism. Their assertions arise out of pure partisan bias, bolstered by convenient ignorance.

Vox’s Matt Yglesias, one of the knee-jerk doctrinaire leftists in the commentary world who does an especially poor job hiding his malady,  attempted to take a shot at the Trump administration by tweeting,

“The US government supplied Berlin for nearly a year by air despite a Soviet blockade using late-1940s technology.”

This is only a valid comparison for the willfully obtuse. You can’t airlift electricity and water, or a communication and transportation infrastructure that is necessary to distribute supplies. Berlin was surrounded, but it had all of these. Continue reading

The Naked Teacher Principle Strikes In Texas: The Playboy Variation

"Miss DEWEESE?? Ay Caramba!!!"

“Miss DEWEESE?? Ay Caramba!!!”

This version of the NTP is not especially close to the gray area of ethics, nor is the result surprising, though I expect a lot of teeth gnashing about it because the naked teacher in question will attract a lot of, uh, sympathy.

Dallas’s school district has apparently fired Cristy Nicole Deweese, 21, a Spanish teacher for the city’s Townview Magnet High School. Less than three years ago she posed in various provocative positions and states of undress for Playboy, in its February 2011 issue. That magazine is still available, but more to the point, the photos are easily available online. Naturally some students found them, and the core tenets of the Naked Teacher Principle had been triggered.

The Naked Teacher Principle states:

“A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.”

I won’t keep you in unnecessary suspense. Deweese is almost dead center in the middle of the NTP. Continue reading

Crystal’s Evil Plot: Competition for Fick?

 

More attractive than Leroy Fick, but just as rotten inside...

Leroy Fick, the lottery winner/millionaire who still shamelessly collects food stamps because a flawed law lets him, was laps ahead in the race for the Creep of the Year  (non-criminal division), when out of the pack came Crystal Harris in a sprint. Fick is still ahead, if only because Harris was foiled in her despicable plans, but even having the idea she is reported to have concocted puts her on Fick’s heels.

Hugh Hefner has stuffed his Playboy Mansion with ambitious, busty bimbos for decades, and now that he is in his 80’s and providing for 25-year-old sex-kittens while lounging around in  pajamas, the whole thing is vaguely distasteful. Hef decided to go beyond his traditional harem bit by actually marrying one of the bimbos, Crystal Harris, who Hefner simultaneously would feature au natural (well, sort of) in a Playboy foldout. The marriage, alas, wasn’t to be, as Crystal had what Hef called (via Twitter), a “change of heart” shortly before the planned wedding day. Eh, big deal. Everything Hefner has done in his personal life has been 50% or more promotion for his business anyway, and one can hardly blame a young woman from deciding that whatever financial benefits Hefner offered were inadequate for what she was agreeing to—whatever it was. (Ick.)

At least, that was what I thought until reports started surfacing that Crystal had a diabolical plan. Continue reading