Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

The NBA Coach, The Secrets, The Loving Wife, And Twitter

The Colangelos (though she goes by the name of Barbara Bottini)

This isn’t exactly a social media ethics story, not entirely. Yes, it reinforces the Ethics Alarms position that Twitter makes you stupid, and that it is an ethics disaster waiting to happen for the impulsive and the unwary. The main ethics lesson, however, lies elsewhere,

Bryan Colangelo resigned as the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers two weeks ago despite leading his perennially doormat team to the NBA play-offs this season for the first time in many years. He resigned in the middle of a Twitter scandal. The Ringer, a sports website,  received an anonymous tip from someone who claimed that he  or she had linked five anonymous Twitter accounts to Colangelo. The accounts had all tweeted about internal matters relating to the 76ers players, personnel and business, even, in one tweet, defending Colangelo for his eccentric shirt collar style, which had been the topic of some social media mockery.

The Ringer contacted the 76ers, but only told the organization about two of the suspicious accounts, not all five. Colangelo informed the team that one of them, @Phila1234567, was indeed his, but insisted that he had never posted anything using it. Coincidentally, or probably not, the other three accounts that the Ringer had not revealed were suddenly switched from public to private after the  76ers had their little talk. After the Ringer published The Mystery Of The Insider Tweets,  the 76ers  hired a large New York law firm  to conduct an independent investigation. Over the course of a week, the firm collected several  suspicious laptops and mobile phones (well, it was the owners who were really the suspected ones; you can’t blame the devices), and retrieved text messages and emails. Investigators also analyzed the involved Twitter accounts to try to determine who was behind them. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2018: The Baseball-Trained Rifleman, The Hockey Hero Accountant, And Some Other Stuff That’s Just Annoying…

Good morning!

1. “The Rifleman” and “Fix the problem.” I recently was interviewed by a graduate student in organizational leadership and ethics. One thing we discussed was how popular culture in America once dedicated itself to teaching ethical values and ethics problem-solving, especially in shows aimed at young audiences. This is not so true any more; indeed, popular culture models unethical conduct at least as often today.

I told my interviewer about recently watching an episode of “The Rifleman,” the early ’60s TV Western about a single father raising his young son while being called upon to use his skill with a rifle to fight for civilization in the harsh frontier.  In the episode, hero Lucas McCain (played by the under-rated Chuck Connors) had to deal with an old friend, now an infamous outlaw, who had come to town. (The ethical conflict between personal loyalty and an individual’s  duty to society was a frequent theme in Westerns.) Lucas was a part-time deputy, and at the climax of the episode, his friend-gone-bad is prepared to ride out of town to escape arrest for his latest crime. Lucas tells him not to leave, and that if he tries to escape, Lucas will have to let his custom-made rifle settle the matter, as usual. (Peace-loving Lucas somehow managed to kill over a hundred men during the run of the series.)  Smirking, his friend (Richard Anderson, later known as the genius behind “The Six Million Dollar Man”), says that he knows his old friend is bluffing. For Lucas owes him a lifetime debt: he once saved “The Rifleman’s” life.  You’re a good man and a fair man, the villain says. “You won’t shoot me. I know you.” Then he mounts his horse , and with a smiling glance back at “The Rifleman,” who is seemingly paralyzed by the ethical conflict, starts to depart. Now his back is all Lucas has to shoot at, doubling the dilemma.  You never shoot a man in the back, an ethical principle that the two officers who killed Stephon Clark somehow missed. We see McCain look at his deadly rifle, then again at the receding horseman. Then, suddenly, he hurls his rifle, knocking his friend off his horse. The stunned man is arrested by the sheriff, and says, lamely, as he’s led away. “I knew you wouldn’t shoot me.”

I love this episode. It teaches that we have to seek the best solution available when we face ethics conflicts, and that this often requires rejecting the binary option presented to us, and finding a way to fix the problem.

Of course, it helped that Chuck Connors used to play for the Dodgers, and could hurl that rifle with the accuracy of Sandy Koufax.

2. Here we go again! Now that anti-gun hysteria is again “in,” thanks to the cynical use of some Parkland students to carry the anti-Second Amendment message without having to accept the accountability adults do when they make ignorant, dishonest, and illogical arguments in public, teachers and school administrators are back to chilling free speech and expression by abusing their students with absurd “no-tolerance” enforcement. At North Carolina’s Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School, for example, a 13-year-old boy in the seventh grade was suspended for two days for drawing  a stick figure holding a gun.

I drew pictures like this—well, I was little better at it—well into my teens. It’s a picture. It isn’t a threat. It isn’t anything sinister, except to hysterics and fanatics without a sense of perspective or proportion—you know, the kind of people who shouldn’t be trusted to mold young minds. “Due to everything happening in the nation, we’re just being extra vigilant about all issues of safety,” said Sampson County Schools’ Superintendent Eric Bracy, an idiot. How does punishing a boy for a drawing make anyone safer? It makes all of us less safe, by pushing  us one step closer to government censorship of speech and thought.

Then we have Zach Cassidento, a high school senior at Amity High Regional School in Connecticut who was suspended and arrestedarrested!—for posting a picture of his birthday gift, an Airsoft gun, on Snapchat. He was not charged, but was suspended for a day from school….for posting, outside of school, on his personal account, the picture of an entirely legal toy gun (It shoots plastic pellets: my son has several of them).

The people who do this kind of thing to children in violation of their rights as Americans are the same people who cheer on David Hogg while signing factually and legally ridiculous petitions. They should not be permitted to teach, and this kind of conduct ought to be punished.

Where is the ACLU? For the organization not to attack these abuses is an abdication of the organization’s mission. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Bill Cosby’s Bias Argument

As Bill Cosby’s latest trial gets underway, “the Cos” and his lawyers contend that the presiding judge should recuse himself because the judge’s wife is an advocate for sexual assault victims. Judge Steven O’Neill’s wife, Deborah O’Neill, is a social worker on a University of Pennsylvania special staff that advocates for students who are alleged victims of sexual assault. According to the motion for the judge to recuse, she has donated money to a victims advocacy group that plans an anti-Cosby rally outside the courthouse during Cosby’s trial.

 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should the political activities, public statements or occupation of a spouse be considered a sufficient conflict of interest to mandate judge’s recusal?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Sought: An Ethical Reason Why This Professor Should Not Be Fired Immediately, And Never Hired For A Teaching Position Again, Anywhere”

There is an update on story behind the post that sparked the latest Comment of the Day.  The racist professor at Trinity College in Connecticut who made inflammatory social media statements advocating killing whites and urging potential rescuers to allow white men and Republicans to die as part of the effort to destroy a “racist system” has reportedly fled the state after receiving death threats. The “I’ve received death threats” is now the reflex tactic for anyone who is under fire for hateful and vicious social media content: the idea is to generate sympathy and victim status. However, excessive negative response to irresponsible speech does not mitigate the offense. No, Williams should not be threatened. He still should be fired.

My favorite Comments of the Day occur when an intelligent reader  candidly explores his or her own thoughts and feelings on a difficult ethics topic without filtering them. Even the contradictions are enlightening. Spartan has proven herself expert on such commentary before, and this is another example.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Sought: An Ethical Reason Why This Professor Should Not Be Fired Immediately, And Never Hired For A Teaching Position Again, Anywhere:

My husband and I have this discussion quite often. He feels there is no duty to rescue any of the assholes of the world, and his definition of what constitutes an asshole is far broader than mine. (For e.g., he has Bill Gates on his list because of his proliferation of a shitty operating system.)

The reason we have this discussion is that I do feel that there is a duty to rescue, but I do not feel that this duty is absolute. (And also he is a nutter, as his position on Bill Gates demonstrates.) I have no duty to be a live organ donor, but if a friend or family member needed one, I would do it. If Trump asked me, I would not. It’s absolutely my call and I while I don’t wish him to die, I would rather reserve that kidney for someone more worthy. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Mayor Patsy Capshaw Skipper of Midland Alabama

Patsy-Skipper-Facebook-post

“I lost. The nigger won.”

—Soon to be ex-mayor of Midland, Alabama, Patsy Capshaw Skipper, in a Facebook response to a friend  who asked about the recent election.

Mayor Skipper was defeated by Jo Ann Bennett Grimsley, former assistant city clerk and an employee of the Dale County government for 27 years. She also happens to be black, which is apparently what Skipper thinks is most important about her.

A few observations:

1. What an idiot! I wonder how long Facebook and Twitter will be around before people learn that you can’t post anything “secretly”?

2. Such a disgusting statement being made by an elected official on a public forum does incalculable harm to societal bonds of trust and race relations. It appears to validate the worst suspicions and fears of African Americans, not just in Midland, not just in Alabama, but everywhere. It also is ammunition for those who derive power and influence from promoting racial discord–Black Lives Matter, race hustlers like Al Sharpton, Democrats.

3. Skipper became mayor when her husband, who was the previous mayor, retired in poor health [Notice of correction: the original post erroneously stated that he had died. My mistake, and I apologize for the error.]  and the good, lazy, irresponsible people of Midland decided that simply having the same last name as the previous mayor was qualification enough to run the town. It is just mind-blowing how often this happens, and there is no justification for it. Let’s see: Sonny Bono’s wife Mary, with no relevant experience at all, was elected to replace him in Congress after he died in a skiing accident. Lurleen Wallace took over for her husband George as Governor of Alabama when he couldn’t serve another term [Notice of ANOTHER correction: the original post erroneously stated that Wallace’s shooting prompted Lurleen’s ascension to power. Again, I missed it by careless reading. Thanks and gratitude to the Wallace-literate reader who informed me of the mistake.]  had died. My mistake, and I apologize for the error.] . Jean Carnihan took over for her husband as junior U.S. Senator of Missouri after he died.

And then there’s Hillary, of course. Continue reading

Now That We’ve Blamed Everybody And Everything—Guns, The NRA, Republicans, Christians, Gay Marriage Opponents, President Obama, Immigration Policy—That Had Nothing To Do With Omar Matteen’s Massacre, Let’s Talk About His Second Wife…

It is unknown whether having a child with the tragic "blurry face syndrome" contributed to Mateen's rampage...

It is unknown whether having a child with the tragic “blurry face syndrome” contributed to Mateen’s rampage…

Item: 

“The Orlando gunman’s wife has told federal agents she tried to talk her husband out of carrying out the attack, NBC News has learned.

Omar Mateen’s wife, Noor Zahi Salman, told the FBI she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said. She told the FBI that she once drove him to the gay nightclub, Pulse, because he wanted to scope it out…”

Here’s a helpful Ethics Alarms ethics tip: if your husband, who had been talking about how much he hates gays and admires ISIS, cases a club for a possible slaughter and takes you with him as he buys a firearm and ammunition, you have an ethical and legal duty as a citizen and a human being to inform authorities to prevent a likely blood bath.

Are we clear on that?

Glad to be of assistance.

More:

“Authorities are considering filing criminal charges against Noor for failing to tell them what she knew before the brutal attack, law enforcement officials say, but no decision has been made.”

They should throw the book at her.