The Reason We Can’t Trust Progressives With Power: They Really Don’t Like Free Speech [CORRECTED!]

It’s not just “hate speech,” and speech questioning climate change, and conservative speakers on campus, and professors using offensive words to discuss how we should treat offensive words, and political speech by citizens banding together to support candidates and express issue positions. and employees making jokes that others choose to find offensive.  Increasingly prominent progressive elected officials, activists, scholars and pundits are advocating the elimination of free expression in realms that have been long protected by the Supreme Court, and that are currently protected as First Amendment speech by the Constitution.

Witness New York Times  columnist Ros Douthat’s recent op-ed flippantly titled, “Let’s Ban Porn.”  Buried in the essay’s Authentic Frontier Gibbberish designed, I assume, to numb the ethics alarms is a call for content-based government censorship, meaning that communicating “porn”–which the Supreme Court never got closer to defining than Justice Potter Stewart’s  famous and pathetic “I know it when I see it”—would be a crime.

How can a journalist, of all people and professions—excuse me,professions—advocate doing what the Bill of Rights specifically prohibits? By stooping to an argument like this one..

“But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut….The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches.”

No, Ross, the reason that we can’t imagine such censorship is because the United States of American is predicated on the core principle, among others, that the government restricting what can be imagined, said, expressed, written and published is far, far more dangerous that any content that can be imagined,  said, expressed, written and published, and thus the remedy for controversial, ugly or otherwise controversial speech is more speech, not laws. What Douthat’s op-ed translates as, and heaven knows it needs a translation though there is no “Leftist Virtue-Signalling Bloviation” to English handbook that I can find on Amazon, is that porn is bad for people, though apparently only men, because the Left’s official position of the moment is that Men Are The Problem.”  For example,  douhat writes,

“So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.”

Continue reading

If You Know Anything About Ethics, You Don’t Even Ask These Questions, Because You Know The Answers Already

virtual reality

Darrell West, a Brookings scholar, believe it or not, queries, “What happens when virtual reality crosses into unethical territory?” It is the topic of his essay, but the question is self-answering. Virtual reality is, by definition, not real. Ethics is about determining right and wrong in reality, in interaction with real people, real consequences and real dilemmas in the real world.

West doesn’t seem to grasp that, and neither, according to him, does the playwright of a work being presented in my metaphorical back yard: Jennifer Haley, who authored “The Nether” playing at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C. West tells us that Haley

“…explores the troubling questions that arise when the main character known as Papa uses advanced software to create a fantasy environment where adult clients molest young children and then kill them….  Should there be limits on human fantasies involving heinous thoughts? Do fantasies that remain in the private realm of someone’s brain warrant any rules or regulations by society as a whole?  Even if the bad behavior rests solely in one individual’s private thoughts, does that thinking pose a danger to other people? For example, there is some evidence that repeated exposure to pornography is associated with harmful conduct towards women and that it legitimizes violent attitudes and behaviors. Does that evidence mean we should worry about misogynistic or violent virtual reality experiences? Will these “games” make it more acceptable for people to engage in actual harmful behaviors?”

These are not troubling questions or even difficult questions, unless one is intrigued by the Orwellian offense of “thought crime.” Here, for the edification of West, Haley, those nascent brainwashers out there who find his ethically clueless essay thought-provoking of any thought other than: “How the hell did this guy get to be called a “scholar”?, let me provide quick and reassuring answers to West’s questions: Continue reading

The Kinky Law Professor Principle: “It’s No Shame To Be Kinky, But It Still Might Be Newsworthy”

We haven’t had a “Naked Teacher Principle” story to mull over for a while, and this isn’t one. It raises some parallel issues, though.

I saw the story about the Drexel Law professor who who accidentally sent her students a link to a pornographic video about anal beads. I didn’t find it worthy of a post, though I thought it was funny. It is funny. But we had covered a similar issue here, in the ethics quiz about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

That was funnier. She was “reassigned”—a not unreasonable result of presumed reduced respect from the class.  The Naked Teacher Principle doesn’t strictly apply when the students are adults, and Lisa McElroy, the professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law who is apparently an anal bead fan–the video she sent by accident was called called “She Loves Her Anal Beads”—wasn’t naked. There is no “Kinky Law Professor Principle.”

However, Prof. McElroy was mightily offended that her cyber-goof was picked up by the professional publications and websites, and that she was embarrassed as a result. She even posted a Streisand Principle-defying op-ed in the Washington Post, blaming everybody—students, bloggers, and Drexel, which briefly suspended the professor pending an investigation on the basis of possible sexual harassment—but herself. She argued that she should not have been publicly shamed, because, she wrote,

“…there was nothing newsworthy about it. What happened was, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial. My students are adults. The link was quickly removed. There was nothing illegal in the video. The post occurred in the same two-month period when the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” grossed almost $570 million worldwide. Yet, because it was porn and I’m a law professor, news organizations spread the story around the world.”

Yup. Because it was funny. I understand that the Professor doesn’t see the humor of a law professor—especially her—inadvertently sending her private porn film about anal beads, which themselves are kind of amusing, to a staid law school class. It’s still funny. Trivial? Of course. But trivial can still be funny. Would it be kind for all of us to scrupulously refuse to communicate the hilarious tales of when we do dumb things or embarrass ourselves? Yes. But society as a whole benefits from being reminded that we are all equally fallible human beings—especially the elite and privileged. A lot of people think laughing at slapstick is cruel too.

I pity them. Continue reading

A British KABOOM! The Man In The Tiger Suit

Tony, Tony, Tony. We're so disapointed.

Tony, Tony, Tony. We’re so disappointed.

Pieces of my head are on the ceiling, thanks to the violent cranial explosion caused by this story, a KABOOM! from across the pond. Usually my head isn’t so sensitive to non-American unethical conduct, but this, as you shall soon see, is special.

Andrew Holland, 51, a Welsh bus driver, was accused of owning an extreme porn video featuring a woman having sex with a tiger. He had been arrested and charged over the video, which he claimed friends gave him as a joke. Holland lost his job, was targeted with hate mail from vigilantes, and he suffered a heart attack that he says was caused by the stress of the case.

Then, after inflicting all of this on Holland,  prosecutors  looked at the video closely, and, for the first time, with the sound turned on. Oops. That was no tiger—that was a man in a tiger suit. The big clue was when they they heard the randy tiger,  in the throes of sexual ecstasy, growl out,

“That’s grrrrrrrrrreat!

Yes, just like Tony the Tiger, the Frosted Flakes icon, except that in Great Britain they are called “Frosties.” Continue reading

Is There A “Naked Beauty Pageant Queen” Principle?

Beauty queen above, secret twin below?

Beauty queen above, secret twin below?

We know that teachers who have performed in porn movies are toast, once their performances surface online, and that teachers whose images, showing them in their birthday suits, are easily accessible by post-pubescent students are not going to stay secondary school faculty members for long. But do similar rules apply for beauty pageant winners, whose physical assets are not only barely hidden anyway, but the primary, if not sole reasons for their “titles”? Should they?

Let’s look at the dilemma facing Melissa King, the newly crowned Miss Delaware Teen USA. A porn site featured a video with a, er, key performer that both looked and sounded exactly like her, apparently showing Miss Delaware Teen USA doing all sorts of fascinating things on, over, and around an unclothed male actor. King denied that she was the performer (who references her participation in beauty pageants on the video), but gave up her crown anyway. Looking at the photos, either she has also triggered the Lying Beauty Queen Principle, or has a twin sister in the porn trade.

One website covering the story polled its readers regarding whether it should matter if a beauty queen has done porn. Stated in that way, it is a reasonable question. If  beauty pageants were like dog shows, and all that was being awarded was a prize for the most perfect physical specimen, it shouldn’t matter if the winner is a Nazi, a terrorist, a serial killer or a werewolf. The problem arises because these pageants include titles. Continue reading

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At Last! The Ultimate Naked Teacher Principle Episode, Otherwise Known As “Hey, Isn’t This A Photo Of Miss…HOLY CRAP!!!”

Stacy and Tiffany, together again.

Stacie and Tiffany Six, together again.

I’ve been writing about various manifestations of what I dubbed years ago “the Naked Teacher Principal” for a long time. The principle, based in accountability and responsibility, holds that once a teacher has allowed naked or otherwise sexually provocative photographs of herself or himself to become available over the internet, that teacher will be unable to properly maintain the respect of and proper professional relationship to students, serve as a role model, or be trusted to meet professional standards. Such a teacher will have no ethical defense when he or she is fired.

Variations and near-variations have ranged from the teacher whose room mate posted household photos of the teacher doing household chores in the nude, to the teacher who wrote sexually-explicit novels about werewolves, to the art teacher whose avocation of painting pictures with his genitals was revealed in an online sequence showing him doing so with a paper bag over his head.

Now at last we have a former porn star variation, and the NTP has been upheld. Continue reading

Porn and the NFL: In Search of A Biased Referee

With condoms, what, 2.5 X’s?

55% of California voters decided yesterday to make porn stars wear condoms on the job—good for their health, bad for the health of the state’s booming XXX film industry. It is a reasonable guess that injecting condoms into the proceedings will put California’s porn products at a significant competitive disadvantage, and also a reasonable guess that the voters who enacted the measure couldn’t care less. So legal enterprises may go bust, their employees may lose their careers, and consumers may lose a form of entertainment they crave because of the policy priorities of those who hold all three in low regard, and who are unlikely to apply any kind of balancing standard. It’s safer for all concerned to require condoms, that’s all. Porn companies, porn careers, porn lovers—who cares about what they want? Continue reading

Three Tales of Ethics-Free Horror in American Schools

Common sense-free, too!

Today we have three tales to drive you to private school, home school, or to move to Bolivia. The first poses a challenge for readers who object to “The Naked Teacher Principle.” I call it…

“The Porn Star Teacher Corollary”

In Oxnard, California, rumors were flying at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School that one of the teachers could be seen in at least one porn film. Eventually other teachers  came forward and showed administrators an X-rated video on a smartphone that appeared to confirm  that the educator, who teaches science to seventh- and eighth-graders, was moonlighting in the pornography industry. She is on leave, and don’t bet that the teachers union won’t fight to protect her job. Meanwhile, the school district decided to make certain that as many kinds as possible would find Miss Brooks doing God knows what online, by sending this message to parents:

“It has been alleged that one of our teachers is depicted in at least one pornographic video and possibly others on the Internet. These allegations do not involve any Oxnard School District students… We are asking teachers to discourage the children from searching for and/or visiting these inappropriate sites. We ask that you be particularly vigilant over the next few days with respect to the Internet content being accessed by your child on his or her telephone or other Internet-ready device.”

Yeah, that should work.

Oh, I almost forgot. What is “The Porn Star Teacher Corollary”? It’s simple, really: “If you are or were a porn star, don’t teach in secondary school. If you teach in secondary school, don’t start making make porn films…whether you’re naked in them or not.”

The next two horrific sagas show school sensitivity at its rock bottom worst. First we have…

“Mother’s Day”

The Wingate Elementary School in Gallup, New Mexico discovered that 15-year-old student Shantelle Hicks was pregnant, so it kicked her out. This a school cannot do in 2012, and when a terse letter from the ACLU got her back into the 8th grade, the administrators had to get creative about how they would deal with this bad apple corrupting the good students. Two weeks after her readmission, they forced Shantelle to stand up in a  school assembly and announce her condition.  She says that until then, none of her classmates knew.  After that, according to her law suit, school officials told Hicks she was a detriment to her school mates, and requested she attend another school.

You just can’t train school administrators to come up with solutions like this.

It has to be an innate talent.

Finally, we have a chiller about another school that is alien to the concept of fairness, which I have dubbed, cheaply but appropriately,


St. Scholastica High School in Chicago expelled a senior for disciplinary problems that included not listening to her teachers, ignoring directions, and failing to respond to requests.

“This pattern of poor behavioral performance is an indication to us that she is unable to meet our behavioral standards,” Principal Colleen J. Brewer wrote in the girl’s expulsion letter.

You guessed it! The girl is deaf. She has hearing aids in both ears. A doctor who examined her found that her hearing problems were “severe enough that, even with hearing aids (it would) affect her ability to not only appreciate the spoken word but also nuances and interpretation of speech. This may lead to an attempt on her part to react to her on interpretation of a communication without realizing she is misinterpreting part or all of a conversation.”

And yes, there is another law suit here as well. Law suits, however, at best only get money for the damage done by teacher and school administrator incompetence. The damage to the children involved may never be repaired.

Henry James, Mis-Matched Neighbors and the Naked Silhouette

Like most people, I grew up being told that it was dangerous to hitch-hike, because of the many predatory drivers waiting to pounce, and also never to pick up hitch-hikers, because some of them were serial killers. I always seemed to me that the odds favored an eventual convergence in which a psychopathic motorist picked up a murderous hitch-hiker. I wonder what happens then.

Neighbor disputes are often like this: pure chance places very different  people side-by-side, one an inconsiderate boor, and the other an intolerant jerk. We know what happens then: exactly what has happened in Great Falls, Montana.

Brian Smith objects to the large decal on neighbor Shanna Weaver’s car. The decal portrays a white silhouette of a naked woman. To him, it’s pornography, and he objects to have to look at it.  “My upbringing dictates that the human body is a sacred thing, not something that should be put on display,” Smith said. Weaver, however, is not inclined to remove it. “It’s my freedom of speech, which he can’t take away,” Weaver says. “It’s no different than the mud flaps that you see on trucks.”So Smith filed a complaint against Weaver for violating the local anti-pornography ordinance, which was a stretch. [In an earlier version of this post, it wa stated that Weaver sued him for harassment, and was thrown out of court. That was in error, and Ethics Alarms apologizes for its mistake.] Continue reading

5 Things PETA Doesn’t Understand About Ethics

Stay classy, PETA.

PETA—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals— has announced that it is starting a porn website to attract attention to the plight of animals. Over on his Business Ethics Blog, Chris McDonald asks whether this means that PETA has “jumped the shark.” More so than offering Octomom money to put a billboard on her lawn advocating spaying pets so they won’t have litters like hers? More so than complaining that Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog of Groundhog Day fame, should be replaced by a robot? I don’t think so. Besides, jumping a shark would be cruel to the shark.

The tunnel-visioned organization, well on its way to becoming a joke to the detriment of its abused animal constituency, has registered the domain name and plans to launch a pornography website in December that “draws attention to the plight of animals.” How will it do that, you ask? By using images of naked women performing  sex acts on men to attract viewers, and then making the audience observe graphic videos of animal abuse for the privilege of watching the graphic sex. “We try to use absolutely every outlet to stick up for animals,” says PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt, who adds that the organization wouldn’t use its “flashier tactics if we didn’t know they worked.”

Let’s put that right at the top of this list, entitled “5 Things PETA Doesn’t Understand About Ethics.” Continue reading