Facebook And Instagram Leap Down The Slippery Slope To Thought-Policing

Facebook has banned right-wing activists Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Joseph Watson, white supremacist Paul Nehlen,  Jones’s company, Infowars, and  Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

And yes, it is unethical. And frightening. The irony is that Facebook says that the ideas promoted by these mostly fringe figures are “dangerous.” Nothing any of them say or write are anywhere nearly as dangerous as promoting censorship based on content and political viewpoint.

It doesn’t matter that all of the political and opinion figures Facebook banned from its two social media platforms are assholes, bigots and hate-mongers—I can’t say for sure that all of them are, since I only bump into any of them when I take a wrong turn on the Information Superhighway, as Al Gore liked to call it. I can say for sure that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan meets that description, just as I can say for sure the media spin that he is “right wing” is ridiculous. If he’s so far right, why have so many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the only-recently resigned co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, met with him, posed with him, and generally given him legitimacy?  Barack Obama posed with him too, though that photo was stored in the media memory hole until he was safely elected President.

Oh, I get it: only conservatives spread hate, ergo Farrakhan must be a right winger.  I suspect that the real reason Farrakhan was on the initial list of banned users was so Facebook could claim, when challenged, that it wasn’t just banning  advocates for the far right.

Progressives and their allies need to get their stories straight.

Let me get back to the first sentence: for a major source of communication in our society to permanently censor anyone based purely on the ideas and opinions they advocate is unethical, and is a serious threat to freedom of expression in the United States. Continue reading

Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship

From the New York Times:

Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future.

And what does “similar books” mean?

Based on what I’ve seen from our tech giants, “similar books” could soon include a scientist’s arguments against climate change, a hagiography of President Trump, or an expose of the  misconduct of the Obama Administration. Amazon has decided that anti-vax arguments are dangerous and wrong, and though I happen to agree with them, it is not Amazon’s job to decide what ideas, positions, opinions and theories are worthy of public consumption. Amazon dominated the book retail business (and many other businesses as well). Its censorship policies constrain debate, the free expression of ideas, and the expression of dissent from the majority.

Defenders of civil liberties and freedom of speech must express their disapproval of Amazon’s Big Brother act, even if it has the “right” to abuse its power, and even if it isn’t the government choosing which citizens to muzzle. Conduct like this places me squarely on the side of Elizabeth Warren, who is advocating breaking up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. When we start allowing speech labeled “dangerous” or “untrue” to be blocked, no matter who is doing the blocking, then we are damaging our democracy and the free circulation of ideas, as well as abetting elite attempts at thought control.

 

REALLY Late Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/18: The Mean Edition!

Okay, it’s way past morning. Couldn’t be helped.

1. You know, like the Democrats and feminists didn’t like Brett Kavanaugh…In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a group of five high school girls confessed to targeting a boy with false sexual assault allegations just because they “don’t like him.” Now the boy’s parents, Michael J. and Alicia Flood, have filed a lawsuit claiming that Seneca Valley High School students in Pittsburgh “conspired in person and via electronic communication devices to falsely accuse [their son] of sexual assault on two occasions.”  They are suing the girls’ parents, the school district and the Butler County District Attorney’s office. Why the DA? Because it has refused to charge the girls, and why should it? They should have been believed, right?

2. Pssst! LA? This is unconstitutional. I guarantee it. In Los Angeles, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring city contractors who have ties to the National Rifle Association to disclose them. “Are you now or have you ever been a member….?”

3. Tales of the Slippery Slope. Hey, if high school conduct is fair game, why not the third grade? The Hollywood Reporter published a tell-all by White House advisor Stephen Miller’s third grade teacher, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Nikki Fiske. She told tales out of school about when Miller was her student at  Franklin Elementary School, revelations designed, of course, to show that a weird kid grew into a Trump-abetting monster. He ate glue! He was messy!

Fiske was pulled from her classroom and is now on paid leave until the school district decides what to do with her. The  concern is “about her release of student information, including allegations that the release may not have complied with applicable laws and district policies,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.“This has been picked up by other digital publications and blogs, and some issues have been raised.”

Ya think? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Nazi Scientist

Scientist, genius, Nobel Prize winner, Nazi. Now what?

Scientist, genius, Nobel Prize winner, Nazi. Now what?

Konrad Lorenz, 1903-1989 ,  was an acclaimed Austrian zoologist regarded as the founder of modern ethology, which is the study of animal behavior. His research  explained how behavioral patterns may be traced to through evolution,  and he made major contributions to the study of aggression and its roots. Lorenz shared a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973 with the animal behaviorists Karl von Frisch and Nikolaas Tinbergen.

It seems that documentation surfaced proving that Lorenz joined the Nazi Party in 1938, however, and for that, Austria’s Salzburg University last week posthumously stripped him of his honorary doctorate.

Your Day Before The Night Before Christmas Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

Is this the right thing to do?

Continue reading

The Vulgarizing Of America

No, this post isn’t about Donald Trump, and I expect the inevitable “Get off my lawn, you kids!” mockery in response to it. All right, I’ll take it. Some adult has to remind the arrested development cases running the media, advertising, business and the nation—OK, I guess this is a little about Trump—that as hilarious as they seem to think boorishness, incivility and vulgarity is, their determination to lower standards of public speech below the water level in the gutter is cultural pollution.

At the televised Teen Choice Awards, Sarah Hyland, the young actress who plays the oldest and dumbest of the two Dumphy sisters on hit sitcom “Modern Family,” moved to the podium to present an award. Who knows, maybe the whole thing was concocted by her publicist to compete with the week’s buzz over the revelation that Ariel Winter, who plays the youngest and smartest sister, just had breast reduction surgery. Whatever the cause, Hyland tripped awkwardly on the way to the microphone and screamed out, as she recovered her balance, “Are you fucking kidding me??”

I did say she played the dumbest sister—good casting!

Hyland apologized to the audience and later on Twitter…for tripping. E!, which plays the role of the dumbest cable channel, responded on its website, “Oh, Sarah, you’re the best!” and “We’ve all done it!”

We’ve all screamed “fuck” in front of a formal wear-attired audience and TV cameras? Continue reading

The End Of Manners: The President of The United States Declares That It’s Cute To Say “Fuck It” In Code

But he didn't exactly say it, see, so it's Presidential.  Me, I prefer...“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. ” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Or..."Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."  – George Washington.  Or..."Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing." ---Abraham Lincoln. But I'm not cool, I guess...

But he didn’t exactly say it, see, so it’s Presidential.
Me, I prefer…“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. ” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Or…”Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.”
– George Washington.
Or…”Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”
–Abraham Lincoln.
But I’m not cool, I guess…

Well, I guess there’s not much point in me trying to blow the ethics whistle on lazy ad-writers substituting vulgarity for wit in prime time TV commercials if our nation’s leader and cultural role model is going to do the same thing. The lack of common sense and responsibility, not to mention sensitivity to his obligations as Chief Executive to raise societal standards rather than debase them, has been stunning from the beginning of Obama’s Presidency, but its depth and persistence continues to amaze, depress and disgust.

Saying he maintains “something that rhymes with ‘bucket list’,” a borderline tasteless and undignified joke, Obama went further. “Executive action on immigration? Bucket,” Obama said to laughs. “New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

“The right thing to do” would be not to debase the Presidency by sniggering vulgarity in public (this was broadcast live), and to empower teens to say “Buck off!” to their parents and teachers while citing the President of the United States as authority for why it’s harmless, since he used the same code to say “fuck” in front of a black tie Washington audience.

Sure, why not? Buck dignity, buck honor, buck civility, buck the Presidency, buck Lincoln, Washington,  and the rest. That’s Barack Obama, our President of the United States! Hail to the Chief.

I think you know how I’d love to end this post. But despite everything, I still have respect for his office.

Even if he does not.

Oh Fine, Now Candy TV Commercials Are Getting Smutty

Reeses

At 8:46 AM, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial popped on TV. “Women want like to make it last,” bold type told us. “Men are done in seconds.”

“Typical.”

Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Of course, we can’t expect advertisers to display respect to their audiences if their audiences prove they deserve none.

How long do you think it will be before we see a Reese’s ad featuring a kinky couple mid-sexual romp, and the naked male points to his erect penis, crying, “Hey! You got peanut butter on my chocolate sauce!” Then his partner, after, ah, checking it out, cries, “Mmmmm! But it tastes great!”

At this rate, not long at all.