On “Correct Pronouns,” Part 2

I began this inquiry two days ago, intending to complete it forthwith, but then a sick, broken, psychopathic teen in Texas murdered his grandmother, children and teachers with an AR-15 with the predictable Ethics Train Wreck gathering steam once again. Let’s finish up before something else goes wrong.

Ann Althouse is at fault: she flagged Roxane Gay’s New York Times advice column “Work Friend,” focusing on this question from the ubiquitous “Anonymous”:

In the past six months, my organization approved the optional inclusion of pronouns in email signatures. I learned that one of my team members uses nonbinary pronouns. In my written communication and conversation about that team member, I now use those pronouns, but I notice that no one else has made the adjustment. As the supervisor of this team, how can I fix this situation?I feel like the longer I wait to address it, the more disrespectful and complicit I’m being. I can’t police people’s language, but I would call someone out for other kinds of behavior I interpreted as disrespectful. (For what it’s worth, I don’t suspect anyone of being intentionally disrespectful by not using their colleague’s preferred pronouns.) The nonbinary colleague has not said anything to me about this being a problem, but I have to assume it feels dismissive. I feel I owe them an apology, but what I really owe them is better leadership. What would you do?

The advice columnist whose record of often obnoxious woke certitude ended up eating the issue sufficiently to require two parts to the intended post, responded,

“Thank you for asking this question. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and part of that is using people’s correct pronouns.”

“Correct pronouns?” Doesn’t correct mean “factual and true”? The requirement that individuals and groups get to demand and enforce what is correct is, I think, one more manifestation of the Left’s slide into a totalitarian mindset, and the tendency of the easily subjugated, weenies and the “oh. well, if they care so much, why fight it?” crowd to let societal freedom die a death of a thousand cuts. Ann quoted one of Gay’s commenters, who wrote,

I am really curious about this pronoun business in business communication. Who decided that the new law of the land is that everybody gets to pick their pronouns however misaligned they may be to their publicly visibly persona, and everybody else needs to learn this and memorize? Who has time for this?

Of course, it is not a matter of time, but a matter of ethics. It is an ethics conflict, in fact, one that involves a clash of manners, consideration, principles, respect, fairness, responsibility, and the abuse of power. It is ethical—fair, respectful, caring—to agree to call a friend, colleague or acquaintance by whatever name they wish to be called, within reason. Not all names are appropriate in all settings, however: a boss that asked to be called “Love Bug” or “Sex Machine” in the workplace is engaging in sexual harassment. Unethical. Would one have to call someone by her “correct” name if she insisted on the title, “Your Majesty”? That’s getting closer to the issue here. Such demands (a request is a demand if one will encounter negative consequences for rejecting it) are a power play; one relevant ethics question is whether the conduct is justifiable. I object to jumping through hoops on command: Ethics Alarms will capitalize the “b” in Black when the stars turn cold, just as I rejected the abomination “of color” the first time it raised its colorful head.

Writing about the pronouns issue a year ago, Althouse, who has raised the question a lot, ended one post, “Personally, I feel that anyone who feels the need to announce their pronouns is childish and rude, and I treat them as such.” That discussion covered whether requiring/demanding/requesting that someone adopt one’s counter-factual, eccentric or debatable choice of pronouns is forcing others to adopt an ideology they do not share.

Of course it is. That’s the whole point. Continue reading

Ethics Signs And Portents, 5/10/2022: Langella’s Lament, Kellogg’s Indoctrination, Lightfoot’s Incitement, And Yellen’s idiocy.

That photo of the dueling signs in my neighborhood (Alexandria, VA) is from the Washington Post last week. Ethics Alarms first noted this obnoxious phenomenon here in 2016, with several updates since.

That’s some scoop there, Lois Lane!

1. Now here’s an even more obnoxious sign of the times: cereal boxes presuming to indoctrinate kids. What possible excuse is there for this, on the side of this Kellogg’s box:

I don’t care about the box design or the cereal: it’s a product, and if a parent wants to buy it, swell. It’s a marketing gimmick. Yuck, but so what? However, this, on the side panel, steps over the line into the culture wars and indoctrination. Not on my breakfast table…

2. Oh, fine: the Treasury Secretary is an idiot as well as an Ethics Dunce. Janet Yellen is now on record as endorsing one of the more offensive and cretinous arguments in favor of Roe v. Wade: snuffing out more children in the womb is good for the economy! “I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades,” she said in response to a question at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Continue reading

On “Misgendering”

Author Alex McElroy wrote an essay extolling grudges, which whatever he or she is endorses. By way of defining terms, the author writes,

Resentments are best suited for major mistreatment: the best friend who ran away with your wife, the parents who pressured you into a career you told them you hated, the ex who emptied your checking account. Grudges, however, work best in response to small and singular harms and annoyances: the neighbor who parked in front of your driveway, the cashier who charged you for a drink you never ordered. Did someone truly, existentially wrong you? Don’t waste your time growing a grudge — save it for something pettier.

Yes, in tone and intent, the essay is probably tongue-in-cheek to some extent. But the author has a grudge to declare that is unfunny and telling:

Two years ago I came out as nonbinary and started using they/them pronouns. I was initially a font of forgiveness for everyone who misgendered me: the roommate who remarked on my “masculine energy,” the cis friend who questioned whether I really was trans.

But when a year passed and it kept happening, I started to think of the immense effort it took for me to come out, and of how the misgenderers seemed to be acting as if it hadn’t even happened. I didn’t want to cut people out of my life for one-off comments; most often they were honest mistakes, born of ignorance or confusion. Glib jokes weren’t worth my bitterness. That’s how I discovered my capacity for holding grudges. By expecting people to treat me how I want to be treated, and remembering when they do not — a simple little grudge, nothing as serious as a resentment — I reaffirm my identity and protect my self-worth from those who misgender me.

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Catch-Up, 5/17/2020: Consequentialism, Graft, Firing the IGs And More Proof Of NFL Rot, As If You Needed Any

Good day!

Lots of ethics flotsam and jetsam hanging around, mostly on my office floor…

1. Speaking of the NFL, the most unethical sports organization extant…Four NFL players were taken into police custody in a span of less than 24 hours from yesterday morning to yesterday evening. First Washington Redskins wide receiver Cody Latimer, was arrested after an incident that started with shots being fired. He was booked on charges of assault in the second degree, menacing, illegal discharge of a firearm, prohibited use of a weapon and reckless endangerment. Later Saturday, Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar and Giants cornerback Deandre Baker  turned themselves in after arrest warrants were issued for the two players. Baker was accused of using a semi-automatic firearm last week to rob multiple people, with Dunbar’s help, of more than $11,000 in cash plus watches and other valuables worth more than $60,000. Then, last night, Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver was arrested on charges of DWI and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Even for the NFL, which has more players arrested and charged with felonies in any single season as Major League Baseball has had in the last 40 years, this was impressive.  The sport recruits its stars from among fake college students who receive little education while being pampered and idolized, with the predictable result.

2. Firing the IGs. President Trump’s latest controversy involves firing the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick. This is the latest of several such firings: before this, we saw the dumping of then-Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson for his role in the whistleblower complaint that prompted the Ukraine probe, and the firing of Glenn Fine, the inspector general overseeing pandemic relief. Continue reading

Thank God This Miserable Week Is Over Ethics Review, 3/27/2020: Of Pangolins, Pandemics And Pronouns

Good afternoon.

Stop blaming my favorite animal, the pangolin, or the so-called “scaly anteater,” for the pandemic!

That’s a tree pangolin above in a defensive posture. Ever since the nexus for the outbreak of COVID-19 was traced back to a wet market in Hubei province, scientists have been looking for the virus’s heritage.  It’s possible that the virus emerged in a colony of horseshoe bats in Yunnan, a province that borders the south-east Asian country of Myanmar. But some fingers are also pointing at the pangolin, which was once believed to have bats in its ancestry. The animal, like others that American wouldn’t recognize, is the most trafficked beast in the world due to the supposed health benefits of its scales, with most of that traffic ending in China. A search for the “missing link” in the chain of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has uncovered two close cousins of the variety of coronavirus that started the pandemic in Wuhan in pangolins smuggled into China. Not THE virus, however.  Here’s a photo of a pangolin unfurled:

1. It is outrageous that a U.S. newspaper would include this sentence…From an article about the joys of Randolph Scott Westerns by Times film critic Ben Kinegsberg: “The depiction of Native Americans as horse-eating, husband-killing savages doesn’t sit well in modern eyes, and the name of Henry Silva’s character in “The Tall T” is so offensive it cannot be printed.”

Well, it has to printed somewhere, or the information itself has been permanently erased! If a newspaper is going to start  purging words, names, history  and facts, where does it stop? I’ve been trying to imagine what name could justify the Times refusing to reveal it, other than “Voldemort.” What could it be? Let’s check the Internet Movie Database (the film is “The Tall T“)… Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2019: The Grant Viktor Bowen Marshall Birthday Edition

Samara Orphanage #2, where we found our son,

It’s a good day.

On this date in 1994, my son Grant was born in Russia. His mother, who was unmarried, did not abort him as many women in her position might have and do, but chose to give him up to be cared for the state, as she declared under oath that she could not. For six months, he lived in one of the packed and underfunded orphanages in Samara, near Moscow. Samara is among the most depressing places I have ever visited, only slightly edged out on my list  by Lorton Penitentiary in Northern Virginia, now shuttered, and Lagos, Nigeria.

Our adventure adopting Grant is too long and involved to record today, but I need to do that. Boris Yeltsin was closing down international adoptions, and we were in a group of four American couples racing to rescue some kids before the gates closed for an unknown period. Children were (and are) seldom adopted in Russia by Russians, and usually they end up warehoused until they reach 18, when they are released to the street. Samara was, it is fair to say, a true hell-hole, lacking drinkable water, businesses, and basic infrastructure. The nurses and administrators running the orphanages were kind, caring and dedicated, but they were also desperate. They tried every tactic imaginable to persuade Americans to adopt multiple children. I am still haunted by the faces of the kids that were introduced to us, and who we left behind. I don’t want to think about.

After a week of being shuttled and raced around the Russian bureaucracy, bribing officials with clocks and silverware, Grace and I made it to the U.S. Embassy with our new son and the necessary papers. The documents falsely stated that he was suffering from multiple maladies, the only way an infant could be adopted by foreign parents under the existing laws. In fact, he had been the healthiest baby in Orphanage #2, a trait he has continued into adulthood. He is almost never sick.

Just like Damien in “The Omen.”

We flew back to the U.S. on the “orphan plane,” a regular Moscow-to-New York flight routinely filled with U.S. parents and their adopted Russian children. The sound of crying infants and chattering toddlers was constant the whole flight. It was glorious.

I look at Grant today, a healthy, defiantly independent, iconoclastic young man with a life of opportunities and challenges before him , and reflect upon the kind of life he would be facing in Samara had a series of accidents and random events not brought our family together.

When Grant was 6, he asked me why he was born in Russia (the little sneak had surreptitiously broken into our documents box and read his adoption papers. I told him that sometimes a loving couple’s child would be born in the wrong place, and then his or her parents had to retrieve him. That was what happened with him, I explained. Grant liked that story so much he told all his friends.

The funny thing is, although I made it up at the time, I believe that with all my heart.

Happy Birthday, son.

[It’s also a good day because on this date in 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended 86 years of frustration and won their first World Series since 1918. Grant said at the time that finally he was certain that I would never forget his birthday.]

2. How’s that minimum wage increase working out for everyone? I was in a Taco Bell last night. The chain has added computer ordering, and there was one person behind the counter. Minimum wage increases cost jobs and makes automation cost-effective. It drives small businesses to ruin, and moves low-skilled Americans from work to public assistance. All of this has been well-understood and known for decades, yet the Democratic Party and all of the current Presidential candidates still pander to organized labor the economically-challenged by making minimum wage hikes a rich-vs-poor rallying cry. Given that the increases don’t affect the rich at all and hurt the poor, I judge the advocacy and disinformation awfully close to evil. If that’s too harsh, It is certainly unforgivably unethical. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/17: It’s The Andrew Sullivan Show!

Still trying to clear the decks..

1 Last week, Andrew Sullivan delivered a couple of excellent pieces of commentary with ethical clarity. My definition of an ethical analyst is one who can steer away from the magnetic pull of cognitive dissonance, and realize that, for example, just because Democrats and progressives deplore President Trump as much as you do doesn’t mean you have to regard their battiest and most unethical positions as better than they are. Sullivan qualifies. Here he is making what I once thought was an obvious point: that Democrats and progressives embracing open borders (and condemning as racist anyone who doesn’t) was irresponsible:

I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president…[and the] reason why I have dwindling hopes that the Democratic Party will be able to defeat Trump in 2020. Instead of adjusting to this new reality, and listening to the electorate, the Dems have moved ever farther to the left, and are controlled by ever-radicalizing activists. There’s a nuanced, smart — and shockingly honest — piece in Vox by Dara Lind about this. Money quote:

For Democrats, it’s been a simple calculus. Democrats’ attempts at “tough love” centrism didn’t win them any credit across the aisle, while an increasingly empowered immigrant-rights movement started calling them to task for the adverse consequences of enforcement policies. Democrats learned to ignore the critics on the right they couldn’t please, and embrace the critics on the left who they could… Democrats in 2017, in general, tend to criticize the use of immigration enforcement, and tend to side with those accused of violating immigration law, as a broad matter of principle beyond opposing the particular actions of the administration … Democrats are no longer as willing to attack “illegal immigration” as a fundamental problem anymore.

This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist. You could see this at the last convention, when an entire evening was dedicated to Latinos, illegal and legal, as if the rule of law were largely irrelevant. Hence the euphemism “undocumented” rather than “illegal.” So the stage was built, lit, and set for Trump.

Bingo.

2. A post that fell through the cracks months ago involved one more example of California morphing into Bizarro USA. Then the post was about a speech-dictating bill passed by the legislature; this month, Jerry Brown signed it into law. The bill was SB-219, changing the laws regarding health care facilities, including nursing homes. Continue reading

If “A Boy Named Sue” Had Problems, What’s Chance Does An IT Named Searyl Have?

“It’s up to Searyl to decide how they identify, when they are old enough to develop their own gender identity. I am not going to foreclose that choice based on an arbitrary assignment of gender at birth based on an inspection of their genitals.”

—Statement released by Katy Doty, Canadian non-binary transgender activist and mother of Searyl Atli Doty, upon it’s birth.

Let’s stipulate a few things before we get into the muck and mire, as well as the “ick” and “Are you kidding me?”…1. As the mother of Searyl, who I recommend trademark that name quick before a drug company uses it for te latest product that will do something to alleviate some dread disease if a sufferer is willing to risk dozens of equally dread side-effects listed at the end of a TV commercial, Katy has every right to do this

2.Katy’s using her just born child as a political and a political prop. She thus qualifies as a soul-less, radical mother who puts her political obsessions over her obligations to her own child, and a great candidate to be an awful parent.

Good luck, Searyl Atli, but I think you are doomed.

3. That name isn’t going to do the kid—can we agree it’s a kid, Katy?—any good either.  Giving a child anything but a name that will allow him or her to go through life without a  needless and gratuitous handicap nailed to them by parents amusing themselves, grandstanding or turning their offspring into a billboard is a form of child abuse. Being saddled with a name nobody can pronounce—Seerill? See-Ay-rill? See-Ay-RILE? Wait… is this name really an illiterate spelling of Cyril?— or spell will rob anyone of about a thousand hours before they are 60, if they are lucky.

Why would a mother inflict this on a child? Because the mother is a selfish jerk, that’s why.

4. This is grandstanding,  narrow-focused virtue-signaling, and worse. Continue reading

A Plague Of Misleading Headlines

Fake headline

The mad quest for clicks appears to be leading websites that should know better to sink to misleading or outright dishonest headlines on the web. For someone like me, who has to scan these looking for possible ethics issues, it is an increasingly annoying phenomenon. Readers need to speak up. The practice is unethical, and moreover, suggests that the source itself isn’t trustworthy.

Here are three current examples;

1. The Daily Beast: “Idiocracy’ Director Mike Judge: Fox Killed Our Anti-Trump Camacho Ads”

Boy, isn’t it just like that conservative, Trump-promoting Faux News to help The Donald by using its power, influence, lawyers, something to stop the makers of “Idiocracy,” that comic classic, from being used to save the country from American Hitler?

That’s sure how the Daily Beast wanted its largely Democratic readership to react to its headline over the story about a fizzled effort to use the the film’s character  of ex-porn star future U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Drew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, in a series of comic spots ridiculing Trump’s candidacy. The story, however, never quotes Judge as saying Fox—that would be the movie side of Twentieth Century Fox, not Fox News, which had no say in the matter: the company produced the film and owns the right to it and all of its characters—killed the project.  All Judge says is that the idea of doing a series of such ads didn’t come to fruition, for a whole list of reasons which might have included Fox’s distaste for the project.. Of  Fox, he says this..

“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…”

The writer then suggests that company owner Rupert Murdoch might not like the idea, and thus prompted, Judge replies,

“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too…I just heard that [the proposed ads] were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”

Based on this, the author, typical Daily Beast hack Marlow Stern, writes, “It looks like Fox refused—and the ads are now dead.” Stern never says that Fox refused; it is the “reporter” who says it. Meanwhile, when the Daily Beast writes about “Fox,” it is referring to Fox News 99.9% of the time, and knows that’s what its readers will think when they read “Fox.”

The headline is intentionally misleading, and a lie.

(Incidentally, the movie is a great concept that under-delivers on its premise and potential, and should be a lot funnier than it is) Continue reading