Remember Cooper vs. Cooper, The Racist Dog Owner Against The Black Birdwatcher In Central Park? Well, Our Crack Journalists Finally Got All The Facts Nailed Down 15 Months Later…

Amy Cooper

…but not before Amy Cooper had to flee the country and go into hiding.

To refresh your memory about this Ethics Train Wreck that has been silently rolling all this time, review the posts about on Ethics Alarms here (describing the episode, or at least as we told about it), here, about a month later, commenting on New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s unethical decision to prosecute Amy Cooper (which he partially justified based on the the intervening George Floyd Freakout), and finally here, from March, when I discussed Amy having to agree to endure state-mandate brainwashing in order to have Vance’s persecution dropped. The short version—but read the posts—is that White Amy Cooper walking her dog off-leash in Central Park was confronted by Black Christian Cooper, a birdwatching enthusiast, who demanded that she leash her dog and filmed her reactions as she demanded that he stop, then called 911. His video showed her telling authorities with increasing agitation that “An African-American man” was threatening her. Black Cooper’s sister then posted the video on line,White Amy became the personification of a racist “Karen,” and the story nicely set the stage for the George Floyd mess, which, through contrived logic and unscrupulous hype, it was linked to.

I must confess that I am proud of Ethics Alarms for its coverage of this case. Even before I had the additional facts (because nobody did), I correctly discerned that both Amy and Christian Cooper, the black bird-watcher whom she called the cops on,

—behaved like jerks,

—that the fury Christian brought down on Amy’s head was disproportionate to her conduct,

—that Don Lemon and others making what was a minor local tiff into a national controversy was unconscionable, and

—that Amy did not deserve to lose her job, career, dog and reputation, plus be prosecuted and get a lifetime ban from using Central Park,

….because, in essence, she was white and behaved like an asshole. (Some readers seemed to think that the fact that Amy eventually got her dog back was sufficient mitigation.) I wrote in the first post, “Proportion is an ethical value. It appears to be completely absent from this fiasco, on all sides.” Truer words I have seldom published, and that was before the recent revelations.

Bari Weiss, the New York Times rebel and exile I wrote about here, has a podcast, and in her most recent release reveals what some non-mainstream media reporters discovered when they dug deeper than their mainstream counterparts bothered to do. Amy Cooper, now living abroad to escape the constant harassment and abuse she endured in the wake of the incident, also is interviewed.

We learn that…

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 10/20/2020: Being Kind To Jeffrey And Other Matters

happy wake-up

1. Time to leave Jeffrey Toobin alone in his misery. I assume this will be an awful day in an awful week for poor Jeff Toobin, now that the full story of his Zoom debacle is out and being commented upon in the social media.  I would like to make an appeal for the mirth and ridicule to be cut short and minimized. It isn’t a case of “he’s suffered enough.” It’s a case of “he’s going to suffer as much as its possible for a human being to suffer without being convicted of a crime and thrown in jail even if nobody says another thing about him in public.” This hasn’t happened before to a public figure: the closest was Anthony Weiner’s sexting women, and as humiliating as that was, it doesn’t come close to what Toobin’s Zoom botch has done to the legal analyst’s career, reputation and dignity.

I hope his family is standing by him; I hope he has a group of loyal and compassionate friends who will care for him now; I hope the popular culture shows that it is capable of compassion, though my optimism on the latter point is far from high. I fear for his life. I was trying to imagine something as emotionally devastating as Toobin’s level of personal and professional humiliation, and my mind kept flipping to the end of  the ugly thriller “Seven,” when police detective Brad Pitt murders serial killer Kevin Spacey after having a package delivered to him containing Pitt’s young wife’s severed head. Pitt’s character, who is presumably on his way to a long stay in a padded room, is actually better off than Toobin: at least he is completely blameless.

It’s not a good analogy, but it’s all I can think of.

Ethics Alarms will not be mentioning the Toobin-Zoom affair again. But before we never speak of this again, let me mention that in Ann Althouse’s blog post on the topic yesterday she wrote (in addition to “This may be the stupidest thing I have seen in 17 years of blogging”), “Who believes he thought he was off camera? Even if he thought he had “muted the Zoom video,” how could he not make absolutely sure before bringing his penis out…?”

I don’t know what goes through Ann’s mind sometimes. Did she think Toobin would deliberately torpedo his life? Of course he thought he was off camera!

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Timing!

Remember this post about the woman who called the cops on a bird-watcher who told her to leash  her dog?

At the end of May, right before a vicious Minneapolis cop (but not necessarily a racist one) knelt on Georg Floyd’s neck and set off a series of events that are too insane and serious to describe in a long introductory clause, the pundits and social media were buzzing about Cooper vs Cooper, the confrontation in Central Park that prompted Amy Cooper to dial 911 and  say that “an African American man” was threatening her life. Christian Cooper, the black bird-watcher, videoed the whole exchange, posted it, and Amy was quickly relegated to Cancelled For Racism Hell, losing her dog, her job, and maybe getting banned from Central Park.

I assumed that Amy’s  public shaming had been truncated by the George Floyd Freakout, but no: yesterday we learned that New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.  has charged her with falsely reporting the confrontation, a misdemeanor. She was ordered to appear in court on Oct. 14. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Great Central Park Dog-Walking Controversy

Oh, fine, another one of these.

Isn’t it fun how, thanks to the toxic combination of cell phone cameras and social media, a few minutes of what once would have been an isolated moment of bad judgment and rude behavior is now able to metastasize into a life and career-destroying catastrophe? Do you like that new reality? Awfully brutal and unforgiving, isn’t it?

The episode at hand involved the woman in the video above, Amy Cooper. She was walking her cocker spaniel off leash when  a bird watcher named Christian Cooper—no relation—told her the unleashed dog  violated park rules. When Amy refused to put her dog on a leash, Christian told her he was going to offer her dog a treat because this typically makes owners want to leash their dogs in response. That wasn’t the other Cooper’s response, however. She threatened to call the police and tell them that “an African American man” was threatening her life. She did too, as Christian recorded it all. Later, Christian’s sister, also named Cooper, posted the video, which got 33 million views on Twitter alone, and is now pushing 200 million views on other platforms.

Then, the deluge. Christian appeared on CNN with Don Lemon, where he accused Amy of trying ” to bring death by cop down on [his] head.” She got death threats, which Christian said was wrong, though his accusation would seem to have helped spark them. Amy Cooper, seeing what was coming,  told CNN she regretted calling the police, saying,

“It was unacceptable, and words are just words, but I can’t undo what I did. I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man and his family, I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.”

Unfortunately for Amy, apologies don’t make a dent in the fervor of social media mobs. Some members of this one, after somehow tracking down her dog-walker,  contacted the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc. where Amy had obtained “Henry” several years ago, and the organization announced on Facebook that she had “voluntarily surrendered” her pet to the organization. “He is safe and in good health,” the group wrote.

Cooper had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, but her employer announced that she had been placed on leave while the incident was being investigated. By yesterday afternoon, she had been fired. “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company announced.

Now Christian Cooper is having twinges of regret. “It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

He might have considered that before turning the video over to the mob.

Michael Fischer, president of the Central Park Civic Association, decided to pile on—heck, why not?—and issued a statement calling for Amy to be banned from Central Park:

“This disgusting display of intolerance is unacceptable and should never, ever be accepted in the City’s public domain like Central Park.The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city’s most famous park.”

Let’s all applaud the impeccable virtue of Mr. Fischer, since that’s obviously what he’s after.  I’m sure, if we think creatively, we can think of more ways to punish Amy Cooper beyond destroying her reputation, ending her career and taking away her dog. Make her change her name, move out of the country, have plastic surgery, end up pushing a grocery cart full of junk…after all, she was really horrible to a  stranger for about two minutes. What else? Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/2019: Be Warned, I’m In One Of Those “The Morons Are Everywhere, So Why Do I Bother?” Moods…

Hi!

Why is there a picture of a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich here, you may well ask? It is here because it symbolizes how weird American priorities are. That was last week’s ad. This week, being ignorant of Popeye’s recent promotions, I offered to cheer up my wife, who was not feeling well, by driving up King Street (usually about a 10 minute trip) to the local Popeye’s for some dark meat fried chicken, her favorite.  As soon as I got on King, however, I was in gridlock. It took over a half hour to get to the restaurant, and it’s parking lot was in chaos. It turned out that the whole traffic disaster was being caused by the jam in the Popeyes drive-up line, which spilled into the street. I crawled up past Popeye’s and parked by the 7-11 a block away. Then I walked to Popeye’s—I would be damned if spent all that time in traffic without coming home with my wife’s treat—and the restaurant was packed wall-to wall. I was informed by one customer that the end of the line was out the door. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s the chicken sandwich!” he said. “All of this is for a fast-food chicken sandwich?” I asked, incredulous. “Yup!” he said, smiling.

“You’re all idiots,” I said, and left.

More than half of American won;t take the time to vote, or bother to investigate the vital issues and events that are shaping their lives, but they’ll waste hours of their lives to spend $4.50 on a Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Then, presumably, take pictures of it with their smartphones and put them up on Instagram.

1. Dog ownership ethics: Anyone who can’t figure this out on their own shouldn’t have a dog. What a surprise! Researchers have shown that screaming at dogs traumatizes them over the long term, and that love and patience lead to better training results. Science Alert reports that a team biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal tested 42 dogs from dog training schools that used reward-based training, and 50 dogs from aversion training schools. The dogs trained  with shouting and leash-jerking were more stressed, indicated by higher levels of cortisol in their saliva.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in the paper published by biology news service bioRxiv.

Duh. Routinely shouting at dogs is animal cruelty. Our sensitive English Mastiff Patience would hide under the sink in one of our bathrooms any time anyone in the house raised his or her voice to anyone. If my wife and I argued, we had to coax Patience out by hugging each other as she watched.

2. Is the 2020 election a mass “Bias makes you stupid” experiment? Two  terrible  (and unelectable) potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and even worse, Obama “wingman” Eric Holder, are reportedly exploring joining the still-crowded field. Why? They recognize that none of the current candidates look like they can attract broad-based support from Democrats, much less the rest of the electorate. A short way of describing this phenomenon is to say that if either Bloomberg or Holder are an improvement over the current crop of socialists, totalitarians and septuagenarians vying to run against President Trump, the Democrats are in big trouble.

A week ago, a New Times/Siena poll showed President Trump highly competitive in the six closest states carried by the President in ’16. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote about it, and didn’t sugar coat the message: even with a 24-7 news cycle bashing the President on all fronts, and even with the impeachment push giving Democrats the opportunity to soak the public’s brain with denigrating quotes, President Trump still looks like a formidable opponent.

Well, of course he is, and it should be obvious to all why. Yet Ann Althouse, who flagged the article, posted the two highest  comments to the revelation from Times readers:

This is the most depressing article I’ve read in a while. The idea of a second Trump term is literally terrifying. Who are these people that like him? How can it be? Fox News, owned by a soulless Australian, is destroying this once great country.

Second highest:

I simply cannot fathom this. How is this even possible? Also I live in Michigan and my sense is that Trump is deeply unpopular here. Are these polls using the same techniques that were used to predict a 97% chance of victory for Hillary? Perhaps the polls are wrong? I sincerely hope so because the alternative is unthinkable.

Wow! How cocooned does one have to be in Leftist echo chambers, false narratives, fake news. conventional wisdom, “resistance” talking points and Big Lies to write things like this for public consumption? If reality is that far from permeating the biases of such people—-after three years of a mass effort to effectively disenfranchise citizens who rebelled against the media-progressive bullying of the Obama years and the blatant dishonesty and corruption of the Clinton candidacy—-they must be permanently damaged. Continue reading

Observations On The President’s Stupid Hurricane Map “Scandal.”

Destined to take its place in “resistance” and mainstream media obsessions along side President Trump’s stubborn misrepresentation of his inauguration crowd, the controversy over the bizarrely altered Dorian path  map was one more in a long nauseating chain of similar incidents. If you were lucky enough to miss it, here’s the scoop.

In the middle of a Labor Day tweeting frenzy, President Trump issued an erroneous tweet that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian. I have no trouble in filing this part under “Who cares?” He’s not a meteorologist, a scientist or even a relaible source of information. Over-heated and contrived complaints that his goof “endangered citizens” are just familiar Trump derangement: anyone who depends on the President for weather predictions when there are so many obviously more reliable authorities available may be doing the gene pool a favor.

Officials with the National Weather Service quickly issued a public correction, tweeting, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” That should have ended it

But, in the throes of the kind of inexplicable, self-destructive, foolish impulse that we have all grown to expect and love, President Trump then appeared in a video released by the White House in which he displayed a weather forecast map, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, supposedly showing that Alabama would  be affected. The graphic appeared  to have been crudely altered with a black Sharpie, however, as you can see above.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump says. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf.”  Later, he tweeted out that chart, saying,

This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!

Here’s the  chart that he tweeted:

It also includes misleading lines drawn onto the graphic.

Why, why, WHY??

Observations: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/2018: Train Wrecks, Gotchas, Fake News, Idiots, And Progress, Sort Of…

Thus endeth one of the worst weeks in Ethics Alarms traffic in years. It depressed me so much I stopped checking the figures. The comments remained vigorous and high quality, and for that I am grateful. Obviously my being on the road, pseudo-vacationing and without a charged computer were factors, as is August. I do feel, however, that a lot of people just don’t want to be objective, rational or ethical where political news is concerned, just angry and emotional.

Well, at least the libel lawsuit by the banned commenter was dismissed this week.. He told the judge that this was an extreme right-wing website, you know.

1. Not the Michael Cohen Ethics Train Wreck, just the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck. On one hand, Cohen is as sleazy, unethical and untrustworthy a lawyer ever to blight the profession (now don’t sue me, Mike, this is just my opinion, not an assertion of fact!), as I noted years ago when I first wrote about the creep.  On the other, Trump was literally asking for a disaster by continuing to employ such an obvious low-life. On the one hand, Trump obviously lying about his relationships with various strippers, models and other sex toys for hire was unconscionable; on the other, “everybody lies about sex” was the official Democratic talking point when Bill was doing it. On the one hand, paying hush money to cover up adultery is slimy, on the other, it’s not illegal, and despite what the news media is selling, it probably isn’t an election law violation either. On the one hand, the news media having yet another impeachment wet dream is disgusting, biased, unethical journalism; on the other, Trump keeps handing the “resistance” ammunition on a silver platter.

Nonetheless, the news media and the Democrats still somehow manage to out-misbehave the President. The latest is the ridiculous argument that the Kavanaugh nomination is now somehow “illegitimate” because the President is under suspicion of illegal conduct. Any pundit or authority who makes this totured and desperate case deserves to be permanently ignored and designated a partisan hack; the current list includes Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono and Ed Markey,  and The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, David Harsanyi explains succinctly for those who can’t figure this out for themselves.

2. Great. Now we have legacy racism to worry about. When the kind of “gotcha!” mentality that prompts people to search for insensitive tweets athletes made as teenagers mates with the corporate cowardice that  prompts a company like Nabisco to cave to complaints by deranged extremist group like PETA, in an environment where “Racist” has become the full equivalent of crying “Commie!” or “Witch!,” I guess this is inevitable. Inevitable, but scary, and really, really stupid.

Lilly Diabetes pulled its sponsorship of Indy racer Conor Daly’s  car in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America, because the driver’s father allegedly made a racist remark in the 1980s. I could go into more detail, but it would nauseate me. You can read more here. The sponsorship was designed to raise awareness for treatment options and resources for people living with diabetes.

“Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus, so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend,” the company said in a statement. Craven, principle-free, cowards. I have diabetes, and I want to make certain that the focus is on Lilly’s utter disregard for fairness, proportion and common sense. If corporations are this easy to intimidate—and I think they are—the Left’s escalating efforts to constrain free speech, thought, advocacy and conduct are going to be successful. When will conservatives work to make all those Kennedys pay for old Joe’s pro-Hitler sentiments?  That would be about as logical and fair as punishing Conor Daley for a 30-year-old comment by his father.

3. Remember that story about ICE detaining a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital when they stopped for gas? It was more pro-illegal immigration spin. The coverage of the news that made it not the “children in cages” anti-Trump propaganda it was spun to be was given a fraction of the exposure that the original, misleading story was. The LA Times eventually told what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”:

An immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was detained by federal officers in San Bernardino last week while heading to the hospital with his pregnant wife is one of three men listed in an arrest warrant for a 2006 murder in Mexico. Joel Arrona-Lara is wanted in connection with the killing of Miguel Ángel Morales Rodríguez, alias “El Garcia,” according to the arrest warrant…

Gee, can ICE arrest illegal immigrants who are murderers now, or should we just “think of the children’ and leave them alone too? A recent poll concluded that a majority of the public doesn’t approve of how the Trump administration is handling immigration. Well of course not! Children in cages, innocent expectant fathers stopped on teh way to the hospital, all of those good illegal immigrants minding their own business…

This is disinformation designed to influence U.S. elections.

4. Life Incompetence Department: In Bijie, China, a concerned 26-year-old husband and 24-year-old wife consulted a doctor to learn why they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to have a child for four years. Intercourse was painful for the wife, she said. The doctor explained the problem after some further questioning:  they had been having anal sex the entire time. After he gave them a little instruction book, the wife was with child in short order.

5. Good! The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that  participation in 11-player high school football declined nationwide for the second consecutive year. “We are encouraged that the decline in high school football was slowed, due in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

As safe as it has ever been…..

Ethics Hero: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

Hear me out, for I am, as regular readers here know, far from a Brady fan, despite my Boston bona fides. In fact, I think he shares the atrocious ethics values of his coach, which can be fairly summed up as “the ends justify the means” and “it ain’t cheating if you can get away with it.”

This, however, is a completely different area,  the toxic, values-rotting narcissism and obsession with surface beauty and impossible ideals in appearance that has made the nation sillier, more trivial, meaner, neurotic, insecure and less productive.

After the above photo of the 40 year-old quarterback with his model wife, Gisele Bundchen, surfaced online last week, the Patriots super-star was beset with social media snark attacking his “dad bod” and declaring him out of shape.

Whether it is intentional or not, Brady is to be thanked, admired and praised for appearing in public absent ripped abs and bulging muscles, and even some healthy fat visible in moderation, and doing so without shame. This is how normal people look, and should be allowed to look without comment or criticism. Once upon a time, not so long ago, before Nautilus and health club chains, celebrity athletes and he-men were judged on what they did, and not how chiselled and bulked-up they looked off the field or between films. This now extinct attitude was known as rationality and proportionality. Thus Joe Louis, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.. Continue reading

“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading

Flipping Off The President, And Proud Of It (With A Poll!)

Remember Julie Briskman? She flipped off the President’s motorcade in  November, and was so proud of that eloquent statement that she posted a photo of her gesture on Facebook. He company, A government contractor, promptly fired her. I wrote at the time,

Flipping a middle figure to the President’s motorcade is protected speech. Flipping said finger to the President when one works for a company dependent on government contracts and plastering photos of one doing this on social media is not what I would call wise, and Julie Briskman should have reasonably expected her employers to admonish her to keep the company’s public image in mind the next time she was tempted to bite the hand that feeds it. Akima LLC, however, a Virginia-based company, fired her.

They have every right to do this, but it was a gross and cruel over-reaction. Worse, the company wasn’t even honest about its rationale,telling her that company policy forbade an employee having  anything ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ on your social media. Sure. “The finger” is undeniably rude. Obscene it’s not.

But Julie doesn’t read Ethics Alarms (obviously!), and sued for wrongful termination. Last week, Virginia judge Penney Azcarate judge dismissed Briskman’s wrongful termination claim. Her lawyers had claimed that Briskman’s employers violated public policy by forcing her resignation.

As I said, I don’t think the company was particularly fair to Briskman, who is young and like most of the resistance, lacks judgment and proportion. I doubt that anyone would take it out on her employers that they employed a rude and immature jerk as a marketing analyst. It need not have fired her. Still, Virginia is an employment at will state where you can be fired for having an obnoxious laugh. As Ethics Alarms has held here frequently regarding professors who post racist rants on social media and episodes like that of Adam Smith, the so-called Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante who verbally abused a Chick-Fil-A employee and posted the video of him doing so, companies have every right to regard an employee whose public behavior embarrasses their employers as a liability, and to treat them as such. It isn’t kind, and it isn’t compassionate, but as I wrote about Smith,

“I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to be represented by a man whose judgment was this wretched and who is best known for bullying an innocent minimum wage employee because he didn’t like her boss’s take on gay marriage. Actions have consequences, and while the cumulative effects of the foolish and damning video have been excessive, no individual component of it is. Someone should be kind, obey the Golden Rule and give Smith a shot at redemption, but no one individual is ethically obligated to do so. Smith’s sad fate, which extends to his family, is still his own doing, and he alone is accountable.”

Continue reading