Tag Archives: “the ends justify the means”

Reconsidering “Lincoln,” Lincoln…And Trump

I’ve been reading a lot about Abraham Lincoln of late. A book by William Hanchett called “The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies” reminded me that while President Jackson is the closest historical match for the populist, outsider aspect of Donald Trump’s rise, the startlingly close match for the antipathy and hatred Trump has faced from the moment of his election eerily traces the experience of Abraham Lincoln.

Like Trump a minority President, Abe won only 39.8% of the popular vote but was still comfortably elected by the Electoral College. As with Trump, his opposition refused to give him a chance to govern or unify the nation, although in his case, the Democrats divided the country literally, seceding from the union before Lincoln took the oath of office. Today’s Democrats are without that option (thanks to Lincoln!), but are doing everything else in their power to undermine the elected leader. (And California, the most Democratic state, is saber-rattling about seceding.) Also like Trump, Lincoln did not concede that his lack of a popular vote majority in any way robbed him of a mandate to govern.

From the moment the election results were known, many Democrats proclaimed the election of Lincoln itself to be an act of aggression, a “declaration of war.” Many in Lincoln’s own party—even his own Attorney General—accused him, with some justification, of engaging unconstitutional measures. The Governor of New York evoked the Revolutionary War generation, saying that they would not stand for such incursions on their rights. Constitutional expert George Ticknor Curtis of Massachusetts predicted that the Lincoln Presidency would “be an end to this experiment in self-government.”

Meanwhile, pundits and critics heaped personal abuse on Lincoln, calling him grotesque, a barbarian, ” gorilla.” Diarist George Templeton Strong, whose words are so often quoted by Ken Burns in his documentary about the Civil War, called him a “yahoo.” It was said that fashionable New Yorkers would be ashamed to be seen in the presence of someone as boorish and uncultured as Lincoln;  it was rumored that he rejected handkerchiefs and “blew his nose through his thumb and forefingers, frontier-style.” As late as 1864, a New York editor wrote,

“[The President] is an uneducated boor. He  is brutal in all his habits and in all his ways. He is filthy. He is obscene. He is vicious.”

Somehow, despite this cruel barrage of ad hominem rhetoric, arguably more successful then that it would be now since the public has more knowledge of the President and can make their own observations, Lincoln persevered to meet the greatest challenges any President ever faced.

While still pondering some of the parallels with today’s relentless attacks on our current President, I watched again the 2012 Stephen Spielberg-directed film “Lincoln,” which was almost unanimously praised when it was released, and which I enjoyed a great deal when I first saw it. This time, however, “Lincoln” revealed itself as an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

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Australia Embraces Pre-Crime

It is crucial to understand is that if you are willing to discard ethical values as soon as they become inconvenient, you never really accepted them in the first place.

Thus  Australia’s looming decision to take away the passports of previously convicted pedophiles because officials are sure that some of them are taking child sex “vacations” to Asian nations active in the illegal trade tells us that when it is crunch time down under, ethics is disposable.

Under a proposed new law backed by the Prime Minister and the judiciary that still needs to be approved by the Australian Parliament, registered child sex offenders will lose their Australian passports as a draconian measure aimed at preventing  pedophiles from abusing children in foreign lands. Advocates proudly call the policy a “world first” in the fight against child sex tourism.

They don’t get it, but then, many people don’t. Many American communities continue to oppress registered sex offenders after they have paid their debts to society, restricting their access to public places like libraries and parks. Vigilante groups publish their addresses so they are subject to harassment and worse. The Constitution, however, limits the extent of the abuse, though that still doesn’t make what many registered sex offenders endure just or fair. Australia has no such limitation.

“The Australian” reports that the law would affect an estimated 20,000 registered offenders who have served their sentences but are still under supervision. Last year, approximately 800 Australian registered child sex offenders traveled overseas. Half of them went to Southeast Asia, where child sex-trafficking is epidemic. Nobody knows how many of the 400 or so travelers actually engaged in the criminal activity, but never mind: Think of the children! Undoubtedly some of the past offenders were traveling to do disgusting things to innocents, and if even one child is saved….well, you know the rationalizations.  Here are the ones the Australians appear to be relying upon:

  1. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
  2. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  3. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
  4. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
  5. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good” 
  6. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
  7. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”
  8. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”
  9. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
  10. TheApathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  11. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”
  12. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”
  13. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

The primary theory here, however, is “the ends justify the means.’

“This new legislation represents the toughest crackdown on child sex tourism by any government, anywhere,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, while noting that Australia is “determined to prevent the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young children overseas.” The “crackdown” means that over 20,000 law-abiding Australian citizens will have their right to travel taken away because of what some of 400 travelers to Southeast Asia might have done.

This is pre-crime. The proposed law, and there is little chance that it won’t pass, punishes people who might commit a crime before they do, taking away the basic human right to go where they want to go because they have a particular history or characteristic in common with actual offenders. Maybe some child trafficking will be curtailed.

This end does not justify the means. The fact that the culture in Australia has come to believe it does should constitute a warning that human rights are not sufficiently safe there.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Torturing Kids For Giggles And Profit: The DaddyOFive Videos And The Cultural Scourge Of Child Exploitation

The story on “The Conversation”: is headlined, “When exploiting kid for cash goes wrong on YouTube….” and there we have the problem in black and white.

Exploiting kids is wrong to begin with and in all respects; it can’t “go wrong.” The culture doesn’t just get it. This ethics alarm has been sounding at ear-breaking pitch for a long time. Too many adults and media opinion-makers have not just tolerated cruel and abusive uses of children by the very people who are obligated to protect them—their own parents– but encouraged it. In such a child-focused culture,where “Think of the children!” is an all-purpose emotion-bomb employed with regularity to obliterate  rational policy arguments, this ugly realm of ethics blindness still thrives.

Ethics Alarms has done its best to cast a light on the cultural scourge from the blog’s beginnings. There were “the Biking Vogels.”  There was Jon and Kate Plus Eight. But what chance do I have trying to explain that all child exploitation is unethical whether it is done for cash or not, when a late night TV star, Jimmy Kimmel, has been gleaning fans, applause ratings and YouTube hits by encouraging parents to “prank” their own children to almost no criticism at all? I even started a Facebook page to stop Kimmel from doing this, as he does every Christmas, Halloween, and whenever his child-hating writers have a sadistic brainstorm.

Maybe the exposure, shaming and punishment of Heather and Mike Martin, of Ijamsville, Maryland will finally have some impact, but at this point I am dubious. Yesterday these horrible people appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to weep, lie, grovel and try to make the public feel sorry for them, as their torture videos threaten to cost them custody of some or all of their children.  Anyone who does feel sorry for the Martins is a fool, and perhaps one of the complicit millions of internet viewers who rewarded the couple for using their children as props, dupes and victims. When you make money by torturing your children to attract YouTube hits, that is signature significance. You are a vile human being, with your values and ethics rotting somewhere in your brain like a dead rat in the attic. The Martins are indefensibly ethics-free human beings, though just two of many. How much can the culture condemn them, when an even worse human being is paid millions by ABC—the hypocrisy of the network is staggering—to encourage the same conduct they are now being, finally, attacked for?

The YouTube video that finally served as a tipping point was the one where the Martins poured  ink on the bedroom floor of one of their five young children. The Washington Post describes it:

Heather Martin, a.k.a. “MommyOFive,” is screaming. “Get your f—— a — up here!” she yells at Cody, her young son. Mike Martin — DaddyOFive to his family YouTube channel’s 750,000 subscribers — follows along behind with the camera as Cody runs upstairs. Soon, he is yelling, too: “What the hell is that?” There is ink all over the floor of Cody’s room. The boy begins to cry. “I didn’t do that,” he says, his face turning red. “I swear to God I didn’t do that.” For three minutes, the parents scream and swear at Cody and his brother Alex, accusing them of spilling the ink. Suddenly, MommyOFive reveals a small bottle in her hand. She smiles and laughs. The ink was trick ink, she says, it will disappear from the floor. “You just got owned!” DaddyOFive says, pointing the camera in the faces of his children, who appear to be elementary school-aged. “It’s just a prank, bruh!” As the Martin parents laugh, their children remain sitting on the bed, faces still red from crying.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This is hilarious!

With over 760,000 subscribers,  DaddyOFive earned between$200,000-350,000 each year from YouTube advertising revenue. The ink prank wasn’t the worst of the videos either, not at all. In addition to the emotional abuse being inflicted on the Martin kids, there was often physical abuse. Some videos showed them being pushed into furniture or walls by their father, or being struck by siblings. Here is a sampling of the videos, as they were promoted on DaddyOFive:

Nice. Although these have all been removed by the Martins or by YouTube for violations of their policies—which YouTube apparently only enforces vigorously when sufficient bad publicity is stirred up—they have been archived here. Continue reading

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A Concise, Clear, Elegant, And Willfully False Unethical Tweet Of The Month From Howard Dean

Howard Dean wants to make sure the Left’s war on free speech and expression continues, so he decided to misinform trusting Democrats and progressives—who trust the damnedest people lately!—with a Big Lie level tweet. His immediate target was Ann Coulter, whose speaking gig at Berkeley was first cancelled because of the campus’s rampant embrace of “the heckler’s veto” (as well as the “the thug’s veto,” “the bully’s veto,” and”the rioter’s veto,” all increasingly au currant on the Left) by the school’s students, then cleverly re-scheduled by the University to a day when there would be no classes. [Full disclosure: I wouldn’t move from my living room into my dining room to hear Ann Coulter speak.] Dean is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, arguably the worst of a terrible lot, and is an expert on “hate speech”, or at least hateful speech, having engaged in it himself often. Notably, for example, he insinuated that President Trump was a cocaine user during the 2016 campaign because a badly set microphone picked up his sniffling during a debate.

The nice thing about the progressive definition of “hate speech” (it has no legal definition, which is also convenient) is that it only includes statements that progressives disagree with or find disruptive to their world view and fondly held beliefs. Hateful speech from Democrats is just the hard truth, so it isn’t “hate speech.” Hate speech from everyone else is unprotected, and should carry criminal penalties.

There is no question that Dean knows “hate speech,” whatever it is, is protected by the First Amendment, but it suits his purpose and his party’s to imbed the lie that it isn’t in the mushy brains of the easily confused. This will greatly assist the Left’s ongoing efforts to stifle debate and make any dissent with progressive cant as difficult as possible. That’s the plan.

And again: progressives and Democrats should be as offended by this kind of dishonesty by their leaders as I am. Why aren’t they? Do they think Dean is correct? Do they think he should be correct? Or is it just that they believe that the ends justify the means? Democrats? Progressives? Hello? Integrity? Honesty? The Constitution? Bueller?

What the hell is the matter with them?

Constitutional law expert and law professor Eugene Volokh mostly controls his exasperation as he tries to set Dean and his uneducated acolytes straight. He begins a thorough dismembering of Dean’s tweeted lie in the Washington Post thusly: Continue reading

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The “Survivor” Ethics Bomb: Dubious Setting, Interesting Issues

An ethics bomb exploded on  the CBS reality show “Survivor” last week.

Ethics bombs are unforeseen and unforeseeable incidents that suddenly start a chain reaction of ethics problems, dilemmas and conflicts in all directions. This was a lulu. Well, it was a lulu unless one thinks that nothing that happens on a reality show can teach any ethics lessons at all, since they are all, by definition, fake news. If you watch the show, what happens on it matters to you; you have accepted the devil’s bargain of pretending what is manipulated and edited  by writers and directors is “real” in exchange for being diverted and entertained—so the ethics scenarios that periodically break out seem worthy of serious consideration. If you would rather watch paint dry—this is my niche—caring about the pseudo-real crises that actually happened months ago in the most contrived situation imaginable makes as much sense as cheering at a professional wrestling match.

However, just as illuminating ethics issues are raised on “The Walking Dead”—kind of a post-apocalyptic version of “Survivor” with zombies—they can arise on a reality show. In this case, the ethics bomb spread out into unscripted “reality.”

“Survivor” has been on the air for 17 years and 34  seasons—I can’t believe I just wrote that— and is itself an ethics bomb, since it launched the reality TV virus into the culture. Copied from a Japanese show, the idea is that a group of contestants are forced to compete in a remote and harsh location, divided up into teams (tribes) that are guided through daily challenges that yield various prizes, ranging from food to immunity from being ejected.. Each episode sees the losing team gathered around a campfire (“the tribal council”) where they vote on which team member to kick “off the island,” a phrase that has entered our lexicon. Contestants form alliances with each other and often reveal their character, or lack thereof, by engaging in various Machiavellian tactics to survive, all captured on camera. Some contestants lie, cheat and steal. Sometimes it works.

Last week, the tribal council took a sharp turn into real world social tensions when player Jeff Varner, knowing that he was poised to be jettisoned by his tribe and desperately trying to get their ire focused elsewhere, attempted to undermine fellow contestant and tribe member Zack Smith. Varner began by darkly claiming that all was not as it appeared, for there was widespread “deception” afoot.

“There is deception here,” Varner said. “Deception on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand.” “Continue,” said show host and producer Jeff Probst, who has presided over and moderated each tribal council from the beginning of the franchise.

Varner then turned to  Smith and said: “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?”

BOOM!

Continue reading

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Statue Ethics Stand-Off: “Charging Bull” vs. “Fearless Girl”

The Wall Street art ethics controversy pitting a nearly 30-year-old sculpture of an angry bull against the upstart statue of a defiant little girl has fascinating cultural implications. The ethical solution to the confrontation are simple and undeniable, however, though the legal issues a bit less so. “Fearless Girl” has got to go.

Arturo Di Modica created “Charging Bull” in response to stock market travails during the late 1980s. The three-and-a-half-ton sculpture was placed near Wall Street in the dead of night,  and was embraced by the financial ditrict and New Yorkers as iconic public art. The artist copyrighted and trademarked his work, which he has said was meant to symbolize “freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love.”

I don’t get the love part, but okay: the point is that the bull is a positive metaphor, not a sinister one.

The “Fearless Girl” statue was positioned this year, the night before International Women’s Day, in a direct stand-off with the bull. It had been commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a financial firm based in Boston, as a public relations and advertising move and classic virtue signalling. State Street Global’s home page trumpets the new statue’s message of “the power of women in leadership” and uses it to urge “greater gender diversity on corporate boards.” The metal girl’s  cynical and self-serving origins don’t seem to bother the work’s fans though.

The problem is that the message of “Fearless Girl” requires the participation of the bull to make any sense and to have any power at all. Otherwise, it might as well be Pippi Longstocking.  In essence, the new statue appropriates Di Modica’s work, and violently alters it. The artist is a furious as a charging bull that what he intended as a symbol of capitalist power and national vigor has been transformed into a sexist representation of male domination. Di Modica and his lawyers demand that the statue be moved away from its bull-baiting position, arguing that State Street Global commissioned “Fearless Girl” as a site-specific work conceived with “Charging Bull” in mind. It thus illegally commercialized  Di Modica’s statue in violation of the artist’s intent and copyright. They also claim that the city  violated the artist’s  legal rights by issuing permits allowing the four-foot-tall tyke to face off with the bronze bull without the artist’s permission. Letters to the Mayor DiBlasio, Ronald P. O’Hanley, the president and chief executive of State Street Global; and Harris Diamond, the chairman and chief executive of McCann Worldgroup, State Street Global’s marketing agency demand the removal of “Fearless Girl” forthwith.

Ethically, “Fearless Girl” doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Continue reading

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In Kansas, A High School Ethics Train Wreck: An Unqualified Principal, Unethical Students, And A False And Dangerous Lesson About Consequentialism

Why are these students smiling sweetly? Because they sent the message to their teachers to be wary; after all, there’s a lot of dirt on the internet…

Ugh.

Seemingly every one is cheering the Pittsburg High School (Kansas) students on the school paper who investigated their newly hired principal, found her credentials to be dubious, and forced her to resigned from her $93,000-a-year job. You can read the story here and here.

For the purposes of Ethics Alarms, I’m not interested in the principal at all. What matters here is that journalists, teachers, TV talking heads and everyone else commenting on the story are proving themselves ignorant of basic ethical principles, like the fact that conduct that happens to result in something desirable doesn’t make the conduct appropriate if it wasn’t ethical at the outset, aka “consequentialism leads to bad lessons and bad ethics,” and “the ends justifies the means.”

From the article:

“Pittsburg journalism adviser Emily Smith said she is “very proud” of her students. “They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired. They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

Emily Smith is too incompetent and ethically confused to advise aspiring student journalists or any other students. The students “wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” according to the student editor of the paper. That’s not their job, their duty, or their business. They aren’t journalists; they are students learning about journalism. Determining if the new principal was qualified was entirely the responsibility of the the Pittsburg Board of Education, which botched its job and approved hiring the principal at its meeting March 6. That the students did the due diligence the Board failed to do is being used as cover by the Board: Everything worked out because of these great students, who we have educated so well!

Wrong. Unbelievably wrong. Dangerously wrong.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

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