Tag Archives: slippery slopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/18: Money, Massacres, Mudd And More

Michael Ejercito registered as concise, witty, sharp and unmerciful a rebuttal of the knee-jerk anti-gun position’s multiple dishonesties, deceits and  distortions as I have ever seen. I am debating whether to post the whole thing on Facebook. It may be unethical to make one’s friend’s heads explode, even heads that deserve it.

Here is his epic Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/18: Money, Massacres, Mudd And More:

– These people claim that we “do nothing” regarding murder. How then, are murderers in prison? Is it just sheer coincidence that they are serving life sentences or on death row? If not, why is punishing murderers not considered “doing something”?

– “This happens nowhere else”. Does “nowhere else” include Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and South Africa?

– These people claim that no one is talking about banning guns. How then, did guns get banned in Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C.? How did guns get banned in South Carolina in 1902 if no one ever talked about banning guns? Continue reading

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It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

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Welcome To The Slippery Slope! Fordham’s Coffee Shop Bigotry

A recent episode at Fordham illustrates quite effectively the way American society could unravel as a result of a Supreme Court decision supporting the Masterpeice Cakeshop’s claim that its faith-based objection to same sex marriage should justify restricting service to some customers.

Rodrigue’s Coffee House is an off-campus coffee shop run by a student club at Fordham University.

The shop has a “Safer Space Policy” that reads…

“Rodrigue’s strives to be a safer space on Fordham’s campus. For these reasons, consider the following:

Do not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences. Be aware of your own identity, while being considerate of the personhood of your peers. Be mindful of the ways in which your words and actions impact others. Be aware of the boundaries of other’s space, physical or otherwise, and respect their consent. No racism – No sexism – No homophobia. If you feel that someone has transgressed this policy, we want you to feel comfortable confronting them or approaching a member behind the counter, who is available as a resource to assist you.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish and first degree virtue signalling, and could be fairly translated as “We are pompous and oppressive social justice warriors who are intolerant of the views, statements, or opinions of anyone who does not share our rigid and undeniably correct ideology. We hereby declare our right to ostracize such non-conforming individuals on the basis of what we, in our sole discretion, consider hate speech. Fear us.”

Fordham College Republicans visited the coffee shop wearing MAGA hats. Sure, they did this to provoke a response, knowing what the likely reaction would be, much like a gay couple deliberately asking for a wedding cake at a Christian bakery.  Memorialized in the video above, the president of the club didn’t disappoint, and angrily ordered the College Republicans to leave the premises.

“This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go…I am protecting my customers,” the president said. Note that she was “protecting” his customers from exposure to the thrice-removed (initials, the phrase “Make America Great Again” which is benign on its face, and its association with the Trump campaign) message on a cap.

“We are your customers, we bought something,” one of the young Republicans replied.

“I don’t want people like you supporting this club… no one here wants people like you supporting our club,” the president answered. “I am giving you five minutes….You are threatening the integrity of our club. This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off or you have to go.”

When one of the students then asked her to explain what she thinks the MAGA hat stands for, to which she shouted, “Fascism, Nazis! You have three minutes.”

Legally, of course, this conduct is distinguishable from the conduct of the same-sex marriage decrying cakeshop owner. There is no law prohibiting a proprietor from behaving like a vile, intolerant, rude, bigoted asshole, just basic standards of decency.  Nor is there a law protecting conservatives from invidious discrimination in public accommodations based on passively displayed political beliefs, although if this kind of thing starts proliferating, there will be.

However, the toxic effects on the culture by the two examples of intolerance and disdain for other citizens and human beings is exactly the same. Each is similarly mean-spirited, each is based on excessive self-righteousness, and each equally harms society, and the nation by elevating tribalism to standard practice. The theory of the coffee shop proprietor, I suppose—that the mere presence of a hat with initials on it is “unsafe” —-is marginally more outrageous and idiotic than the baker’s claim that selling a cake for a wedding he will not attend, is not invited to, that will never impose on his consciousness once the customers walk out the door unless his cake turns out to be poisoned, and that will take place whether he provides the cake or not,  is a burden on his religious faith. Marginally. They both constitute  unethical mistreatment of other human beings who deserve better, and breaches of the Golden Rule. That in both cases the victims of the unethical conduct may have intentionally presented themselves to be abused does not mitigate the abuse.

I might as well state the obvious, that the members of the intolerant club operating the shop are 100% behind the cause of forcing the cakemaker to sell the gay couple a wedding cake, but believe it is fair and just to refuse to sell Republicans a muffin.

Sometimes I am embarrassed that I even have to write a post. This is one of those times.

If higher education is manufacturing future citizens who think and act like the club president running the coffee shop, then higher education is doing the nation more harm than good.

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Comment Of The Day #4: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day, the fourth on the post about the Great Cake Controversy ,responds to #3, by Extradimensional Cephalopod.

The four COTD’s cover a great deal of legal and ethical territory and if not the full spectrum of positions on this difficult topic. Ryan’s three predecessors can be read here:

After you read #4, I’ll ask you which of the COTDs come closest to your own opinion. If the answer is “none of them,” by all means try for #5!

Here is  Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:

EC,

I hate to answer for the baker, so I hope you don’ mind if I respond with how I would answer.

What if I walked into the shop and asked for a wedding cake for no reason at all? Nobody’s getting married; I just want the cake. Is it against his religion to make that style of cake for anything other than weddings?

It would not be against my religion, no.

One thing I want to point out about your line of inquiry here is that you are divorcing the mechanical action of making a cake from the purpose of making a cake. A cake is a cake, and apart from any purpose, it remains a cake with no further meaning than a configuration of confectionery molecules. But the purpose for making the cake defines the context. If you wanted me to bake you a cake so you could bury it in your backyard, I wouldn’t have any religious objections to that, but I would certainly object to having the fruits of my labor just thrown away. Just as I would object if you wanted me to write you a book so could use the pages of the book as toilet paper.

The purpose of making a wedding cake is for it to be displayed and consumed at a wedding. If you aren’t going to use the cake for a wedding, ontologically speaking, could it even be a wedding cake?

Do I have to show him a marriage license?

I wouldn’t require that. My general standpoint would be to take people at their word. That being said, if I knew you and you were known for pranks, were opposed to marriage in general, and nothing I knew about your recent activities hinted at a wedding, I might want some actual proof that a wedding was occurring.

I’m an atheist; will he refuse to acknowledge my marriage because you can’t have marriage without a god? Does only the Christian deity count for a “real” marriage?

Since I’m Catholic, I’ll just toss out what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage. Marriage is universal. Historically, marriage permeates pretty much every culture. Marriage is an institution that has, for the most part, united a man and his wife to the children they bear together. Marriage does not require a profession of faith, because it is a foundational institution of mankind. That is why eating, drinking, and shelter don’t require a profession of faith. They are also foundational aspects of the human condition. So, there is no objection to two atheists marrying.

Where the religious context comes into view is with the nature of that marriage. Catholics profess that Jesus elevated the institution of marriage to a sacrament. This means that a valid marriage between baptized individuals cannot be dissolved save by the death of one of the two parties. But that does not mean every marriage is sacramental. If one of the two parties is not baptized, the marriage is still a valid marriage, but it is not a sacramental marriage. Thus it could be dissolved, and either party would be free to re-marry.

A funny oddity of terminology crops up in Catholic teaching. Since a valid, sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved, but since parties can licitly separate for serious reasons (abuse, abandonment, adultery, addiction), a Catholic can be married and divorced at the same time…

I would argue that the artistic quality of the cake has nothing to do with who is getting married, or if there’s even a marriage at all–at least, as far as religion is concerned.

I agree with you to a certain extent, here. The artistic quality is its own concern. It is the teleological purpose of the cake that is the true contention. So that raises a question: if I bake a cake that I do not intend to be used at a wedding, but looks just like a cake that I do intend to be used at a wedding, is it a wedding cake? To use some technical terms, there is the essence of a thing, and there are the accidents of a thing. The essence of a thing is what is essential to a thing being that thing; accidents are just features that particular thing has that are not essential to a thing being that thing. The essence of a chair is something to sit on. Accidents of a chair are having one leg, or three, or four, having a back, not having a back, etc. So what is the essence of a wedding cake, and what are the accidents of a wedding cake? I think the only essential difference between a wedding cake and a non-wedding cake is the intent for which the cake is made. The only part I waffle on is the cake-topper…

On a separate note, I assert that religion ultimately must be subordinate to the law of the land.

I’m uncomfortable with how you phrase this, so let me toss out what I think about this, and let me know if it does or doesn’t conform with what you’re thinking. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day #3: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

And now there are FOUR Comments of the Day on the post about the Great Cake Controversy. This is a record number for a single Ethics Alarms post. It is a true ethics conflict: which should have priority in a pluralistic society, the right of all citizens to be treated equally under the law, and to have the government ensure their right to the pursuit of happiness, or the individual right to act and live in concert with one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and to not be forced into expressive speech, part of the right to liberty? This part of the controversy doesn’t even include the ethical question of whether either party should have allowed this to be come a legal dispute.

When I post the fourth COTD, with was a response to #3, I’ll include links to the other three and include a poll for readers to register their opinion regarding which comes closer to their own view

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s  Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:

There’s an obvious question here (well, several) that occurs to me: What if I walked into the shop and asked for a wedding cake for no reason at all? Nobody’s getting married; I just want the cake. Is it against his religion to make that style of cake for anything other than weddings? Do I have to show him a marriage license? I’m an atheist; will he refuse to acknowledge my marriage because you can’t have marriage without a god? Does only the Christian deity count for a “real” marriage?

I would argue that the artistic quality of the cake has nothing to do with who is getting married, or if there’s even a marriage at all–at least, as far as religion is concerned. If I asked someone to draw me a picture of a bird, they don’t have to know anything about me in order to make it. Their art doesn’t have anything to do with me, and they are not expressing any objectionable ideas. They’re not endorsing me in any way by taking me on as a customer. Therefore, this isn’t like refusing to make a swastika cake. This is like refusing to sell a cake to Nazis. (Yes, Nazis should be able to buy cake like anyone else. Preventing them from doing so is just bullying, and won’t teach them anything except more hate. How will they learn how to appreciate different people if only other Nazis talk to them?) Continue reading

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Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought

The last time (in July) I dealt with the apparently thornier-than-I-thought issue of the Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, I assumed that the Supreme Court would treat this as a pure public accommodations case, and side with Colorado and the couple. I was wrong. Now it is beginning to look like baker Jack Phillips may even prevail, based on the justices’ comments during oral argument.

Then I wrote, quoting my post when this case first surfaced…

“The court’s conclusion  is impossible to rebut. The cake the baker was asked to bake for the gay wedding differed not at all from one he would normally sell a straight couple. In truth, this had nothing to do with expression. He was just refusing to serve a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Selling them a standard cake would neither constitute, nor would it be recognized as a “message” in support of gay marriage.

The Court agreed that a wedding cake with a customized message celebrating a same-sex marriage as such might implicate First Amendment speech issues, but “we need not reach this issue,” the court said. “We note, again, that Phillips denied Craig’s and Mullins’ request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake’s design or any possible written inscriptions.”

In other words, Phillips was gratuitously and unnecessarily being a cruel jerk. An alleged Christian who is unable to detect the basic Golden Rule application in treating fellow citizens with the minimal level of respect inherent in allowing them to buy a standard wedding cake requiring no “Yay Gay!” or “Charlie and David Forever!” messages in pink frosting deserves no sympathy or quarter from the law. Could the couple have just shrugged and found another bakery? Sure, they could have. Linda Brown could also have just shrugged and found an all-black school to attend, too.

The gay couple are not the villains here. Jack Phillips broke the social contract, as well as the law.”

Recent articles about the SCOTUS appeal have added some facts that I had missed, or not given sufficient weight. For example, Continue reading

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