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Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading

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From The “Grandstanding Ingratitude” Files…Ethics Dunce: Boston Red Sox Owner John Henry

Ah, Ethics Alarms heaven! The statue-toppling mania issue has collided with the Boston Red Sox, just two days after my pilgrimage to Fenway Park!

ESPN reported yesterday that Red Sox owner John Henry wants Boston to change the name of  the street that borders the legendary park, Yawkey Way, and he is trying to exploit the   current political correctness mania that has cities pulling down statues of war heroes in the dead of night to accomplish his goal.

That’s my characterization, of course, not ESPN’s.

Henry told the Boston Herald that he is “haunted” by the racist legacy of previous owner Tom Yawkey, who led the team from 1933 to 1976. Because he is haunted, he thinks that it is fair and right that the man who beyond question saved the team, ran it as a Boston institution and public utility, and is as responsible as anyone for the fact that Henry owns one of the prestige franchises in all of sports, should be dishonored and shunned because he wasn’t enlightened about civil rights long before Martin Luther King began marching.

Such disgraceful moral grandstanding and self-righteous ingratitude is seldom seen. But I guess if anyone should be able to grandstand, its someone who owns a baseball park.

For those who mock the idea that the desecration of Robert E. Lee’s statues leads directly to George Washington, now hear this; for the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey is George Washington.

The only owner any one remembered before Tom Yawkee bought the team was Harry Frazee, consigned to Beantown Hell for selling Babe Ruth (and many other stars) to the New York Yankees in 1919. From that moment on, the team was a perennial loser, often in last place, while New York won pennant after pennant and sneered at its proud rival on the Bay. In 1933,

Tom Yawkey , a lumber tycoon and baseball enthusiast, bought the team and poured money and love into it, buying other team’s stars (Left Grove, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx) and turning the team into worthy challenger to the Yankees.  From the beginning, Yawkey paid no  attention to the bottom line as he tried to build a champion out of the franchise, or as he put it, “to bring a championship back to the fans of Boston.” This was during a period when teams had permanent control over player contracts, and most owners used that leverage to pay players pathetic wages. Not Tom Yawkee. He was criticized for over-paying players–hilarious now, when we’re talking about his paying a utility infielder $15,000 when others of his ilk were making just $8,000, and current utility players make a couple million dollars a season. Sportswriters in Boston called the Red Sox a country club, and blamed Yawkee for “falling in love with his players.” In 1960, Ted Williams had to ask Yawkey to cut his salary, because he felt embarrassed after a bad year, his only one.

Was Yawkey a racist? He was born in 1903, and grew up during the Wilson Administration, when Jim Crow really took of. Sure he was a racist, along with about 95% of the whites in the nation.  Continue reading

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Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle

“Oops! Sorry.”

 

A commenter yesterday inquired about the Ethics Alarms position regarding efforts to punish participants at white nationalist rallies by publishing their photos on Facebook and other social media, presumably to help get them fired.

I’ll begin the analysis with the Naked Teacher Principle, explored in its many variations on Ethics Alarms, which 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.”

The same general reasoning would apply to a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who placed videos or photos of himself or herself demonstrating in favor of racist causes, or giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute, on social media. Even a superb teacher, and one who never exhibited any racial bias at all, would be rendered untrustworthy by such photographs. A neo-Nazi has a right to his or her political views, but those views cannot interfere with the individual’s ability to do a job.

No, I wouldn’t trust a Klan member, a neo-Nazi or a white nationalist to teach my child.

The same would apply to social media posts, and the exact analogy are the college professors who have recently found themselves enmeshed in controversies by declaring on Twitter or Facebook that white people should be killed, that males are a social contagion, or similar bigoted sentiments. These teachers should be separated from their students, and many, though not all, have been. They are, however, publicizing themselves, as well as their bigoted views. Like the naked teachers who posed on-line, they are accountable for the images they project and publish, and how those images affect present and future employees.

However, this is different:

Thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

The activity described is a direct effort to punish people for  their opinions expressed through legal means. It is in the same unethical category as sending private e-mails that reflect badly on former lovers through social media, or using a questionable tweet to destroy the life and career of the tweeter. This kind of  “amateur sleuthing”  as the Times whitewashes the practice, is vicious, destructive, reckless, unfair, and a Golden Rule breach.

I have already pointed out that I might be tempted  join a demonstration against the unethical airbrushing of history that taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue in his home state represents. If I were an idiot (but not a bigot), and didn’t recognize that the white nationalists were just exploiting the General’s memory for their own agenda, I might have been in that group of Tiki torch marchers. A photograph of me marching with a bunch of Klansman and neo-Nazis would hardly be good for my ethics business, though I would be completely innocent of racist views.

The “amateur sleuths” also are not always correct (being amateurs, after all) , as well as being self-righteous, vicious, and opponents of free speech. The Times describes that fate of a professor, Kyle Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, and who resembled another man caught in a photo marching with the racists. Quinn was attacked on Twitter and Instagram, and social media demanded that he be fired, accused him of racism, and posted his home address online.

Nice.

Be proud, you vicious social justice warriors! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/12/17

Good morning, all!

1. I can’t keep writing the same post repeatedly as the politically correct, the historical censors, the Soviet-style Left and the gallactically stupid continue to tear down statues and eliminate honors to significant Americans who are predecessors deemed worthy.  Just hunt for the “airbrushing history” tag here and you’ll find too many already. We should note, however, how the cognitive dissonance scale is coming into play to the benefit of the unethical airbrushers.

In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, this weekend will witness thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating to protest a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee  from a city park, because, Lee’s sub-21, infinitely wise undergrads insist, erasing Lee from history will undo the legacy of racism, or something. Of course, for the Racist Right to be the ones protesting makes this position look reasonable. White supremacists organizing the protests unjustly associates Lee with their cause, making his statue mean something it never did, and attaching him to  cause that was not his. The protests against tearing down Lee’s statue–UVA’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, will be next on the non-person list, or close to it—should be coming from historians, scholars, liberals, believers in fairness, nuance, and integrity, and those who are literate enough to understand that the life of Robert E. Lee has much to teach every child and American about loyalty, hubris, hard choices, tragic choices, hypocrisy, courage and more. Why aren’t they protesting? Two reasons, now: they don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder with the scum of the earth, and they are too timid to stand up for crucial ethical principles, unlike the censors of Charlottesville, who don’t understand them, and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who don’t have them.

2. And speaking of historical airbrushing and censorship: Last year, I designated the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as an Ethics Dunce for omitting the second African American SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas from mention while devoting an exhibit to his unsubstantiated accuser, Anita Hill.  Now the museum has announced plans to honor Jim Vance.

Come on, you all know who Jim Vance is, don’t you? (D.C. area residents: shut up!) Jim Vance, who transformed America for blacks? Give up? Vance was a long-time popular local D.C. television news broadcaster, with a nice screen presence and a casual delivery.  He just died, and he was black. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said the broadcaster “symbolized that it was really important that America was changing and his presence was a symbol of that change.” Right, sort of….although Vance was hardly the first or the most prominent black newscaster in D.C. Clarence Thomas, however, was the first conservative black justice…which is, of course, why is being shown such disrespect by the “Nation’s Attic.”

I haven’t visited the huge, striking new museum on the mall yet, and I won’t until its shows signs of being am objective chronicler of history rather than a tool of interest group propaganda. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/3/17

Good Morning!

1. “He was right, dead right, as he sped along, but he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.” This was a refrain (from an actual epitaph) my Dad used to recite to hammer the principle into my head: being right is often not enough. I wonder if Chris Christie ever heard it? The Governor of New Jersey is vacationing with his family at a state beach he closed to the public , along with all state parks, as a result of a budget stand-off with the legislature. Technically and legally, he has every right to do this, since governors of the state have the use of a residence on that beach, and the detail that watches it when the Governor is in residence is not affected  by the government shut-down. Christie, in his trademark blunt manner, has responded to criticism by saying, in essence, “I’m governor and you’re not.” He’s right that he’s not taking a special privilege by using his residence when the beach is closed to the public. He’s right that he has no alternative to closing government services when the legislature doesn’t meet the statutory mandate for approving a budget. It doesn’t matter: he also has a duty to preserve trust in the government and democracy. His vacation in a place that he’s made off-limits to the public, no matter what the justification, has the appearance of impropriety, and more than an appearance of arrogance and a broken ethics alarm.

2. The big story yesterday—I can’t believe I’m writing this—was the President tweeting a silly tricked-out video purporting to show him wrestling CNN. This was, to anyone not determined, due to a near fatal level of confirmation bias and the Trump Hate Brain And Conscience Eating Amoeba, to interpret every word and act by this President as evidence of evil, a joke. Sure, it was also gloating, and trolling, and sophomoric, and unpresidential but the long, long list of talking heads and pundits who solemnly pronounced  this foolishness as “advocating violence against journalists” all revealed themselves as untrustworthy, dishonest, or hysterical. This kind of incompetent reaction is why Trump keeps doing this.

Our broken news media will have to be torn down before it can be restored to the objective and non-partisan institution a healthy democracy has to have to survive. If President Trump’s japery accomplishes this—I would prefer journalism to come to its senses internally, but that clearly is not going to happen—that’s a rich silver lining to the cloud of his Presidency. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/27/17 [Updated]

1. Since I don’t want to have too many posts at once showing how untrustworthy CNN has become, let’s put this one in the short form: on Sunday, CNN’s alleged show about journalism ethics, “Reliable Sources,” hosted by “watchdog” (stifling a guffaw here) Brian Stelter, conveniently skipped the single biggest broadcast journalism scandal in years.

Thomas Frank, a reporter for “CNN Investigates, announced that “the Senate Intelligence Committee  was investigating a Russian investment fund”, the Direct Investment Fund — “whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.” The CNN “exclusive ” was based on a single  unnamed source, and quickly attacked as fake news—which it appears to have been. CNN, of course, has pushed the Trump-Russia collusion hypothesis as if it were a missing Malaysian airplane. The network pulled the story, retracted it, and three reporters involved in the fiasco “resigned.”

If one were depending on Stelter to get a weekly briefing on how reliable and ethical news media sources were in the week past, one would have been thoroughly deceived. “Reliable Sources,” under the oversight of Stelter, itself isn’t reliable or ethical. It is a house mouthpiece, masquerading as an ethics show. This is res ipsa loquitur, an episode that speaks so loudly by itself that no further evidence is required. If the host of a broadcast ethics watchdog cannot and will not report on serious ethics breaches by his own employer, which is also one of the most visible and significant broadcast news outlets in the journalism, then the show isn’t really dedicated to journalism ethics. It is a biased tool of competition and propaganda, with conflicts of interest that it neither admits nor tries to avoid.

Stelter devoted most of his show to attacking President Trump for not according proper respect to the news media. The President has labelled CNN as “fake news.” This episode vividly demonstrated why.

2. Watching HLN’s Robin Meade this morning to avoid “Fox and Friends” (the CNN outgrowth also has thus far  neglected to mention the network’s fake news episode,) the Cheerful Earful began, “The minimum wage might actually hurt workers????” while making a shocked face that would be appropriate if she was saying that the moon was made of cheese. Thus do those constantly marinated in progressive/ Bernie-style fantasies set themselves up for amazement by the obvious.

Yes, Robin, it has been well-known for about a century that raising the minimum wages causes unemployment for workers whose negligible skills just are not worth the new mandated wage, eliminates whole job categories (summer jobs for teens being the most harmful to society), and puts many small businesses out of business. But never mind! “Living wage” sounds so kind and  good, and the rising minimum wage is always a tool to help unions  argue for increases in their much more than minimum wages, which is why the Democratic Party keeps promoting the lie that raising the minimum wage ever higher makes sense.

Robin was shocked at a new study of the results of Seattle’s huge minimum wage increase, enacted in the heat of mindless progressive faith. Conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city, the study indicates that far from benefiting low-wage employees, the costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one. This is the study found that  some employers have not been able to afford the mandated minimums, so they are cutting payrolls, delaying new hiring, reducing hours or firing workers. Gee, who could have predicted that?  The news media is reporting this as if it is a surprise. It’s not. I oversaw a study at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decades ago that indicted this would happen, because it has happened before. Frankly, it’s obvious; so obvious that I have long believed that Democratic Party advocates for the minimum wage are lying to their gullible supporters.  Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton made raising the minimum wage a rallying cry, which is one of many reasons why I found it impossible to trust Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

In the meantime, having seen the writing on the wall, restaurants are increasingly moving to replace waiters, waitresses, and cashiers with automated systems, because they are cheaper…thanks to the minimum wage. If humans were cheaper, humans would keep those jobs, and restaurants would be more pleasant, unless you prefer dealing with computers than human beings. I don’t.

Lies have consequences. Or as Robin would say, “Lies have consequences???” Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen

“We chose to set up our system to be stacked in favor of the defendant in all cases.So, in areas where most of the defendants are male, and most of the accusers are female, it’s a structural bias in favor of males. Even if we were to get rid of sexism, it would still be very hard to win these cases. I think this is what we have to live with on the criminal side, because we’ve made the calculation that this is the right balance of values.”

—-Jeannie Suk Gersen, Harvard Law School professor, explaining why the failure of a jury to convict Bill Cosby has little to do with sexism and everything to do with our standard of guilt in criminal cases.

The Professor could also have said, just as accurately,

‘We chose to set up our system to be stacked in favor of the defendant in all cases. So, in areas where the defendants are police officers, and most of the victims are black, it’s a structural bias in favor of cops. Even if we were to get rid of racism, it would still be very hard to win these cases. I think this is what we have to live with on the criminal side, because we’ve made the calculation that this is the right balance of values.’

It’s the exact same problem. The confusion comes when the public or a portion of it is  certain that particular defendant is guilty, and thus regards the failure of the system to find him so as proof of a malfunctioning justice system. It isn’t. It is proof that the system functions as it is supposed to, was designed to do and must do.  We do not take citizens’ freedom away unless guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt under the evidence rules of the law. This is what Colin Kaepernick doesn’t understand. This is what Black Lives Matters refuses to understand. This is what feminists and the Obama Education Department, which commanded that universities give the benefit of the doubt to accusers in allegations of sexual assault rather than the accused, either refuse to understand or do understand but argue against anyway to pander to the ignorant.

Americans, however, must understand this principle, and not just understand but fight for it, because it is the foundation of the Rule of Law as well as our individual rights.

Before I am done I will probably have posted this scene from “A Man For All Seasons” more than a hundred times. Maybe I should post it every day. Those who casually advocate forging short-cuts and detours through our laws and rights as the remedy for what they perceive as intolerable wrongs need to see it, read the words, memorize them, and maybe be quizzed on the scene’s lesson as a condition predicate to being respected in any policy debate:

 

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