Tag Archives: The Golden Rule

Comment Of The Day: “From The ‘Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!’ Files: The Golden Rule”

A commenter on the post on the studio tantrum thrown by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell going viral on YouTube after it was leaked said that such a leak was “predictable.” I asked,

“Why should it be “predictable”? Why shouldn’t we be able to trust co-workers not to try to hurt us, e-mail correspondents not to send out our messages to strangers and on social media? Was it predictable that Donald Sterling’s mistress/beard would tape his comments in his bedroom to destroy his reputation?”

This prompted Crella’s  Comment of the Day on the post, From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule:

Exactly. It shouldn’t be predictable. However, it seems that for a lot of people, their first instinct with anything they come across is to put it on the net, no matter the consequences. It’s so easy ( and I assume, extremely satisfying to bully types) to shame and humiliate on a scale previously unknown in human history. It’s irresistible to too many.

The ability to find thousands of like-minded people in a relatively short period of time on social media, and the sheer volume of encouraging positive feedback you can receive ( ‘if so many people agree with me, I must be right!’) has brought grade-school level cliques and meanness to the fore in a great deal of adult communication. It’s the same mechanism on a large scale. People rarely step back and see themselves, but I read and just wonder at it daily…the people most stridently against fat shaming, objectification, being leered at, and other ‘lookist’ offenses on social media are routinely ridiculing Trump on his hair, weight, skin color, and posture while playing golf, comments on appearance are very common. Continue reading

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From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule

A video has gone viral, mostly thanks to conservative websites and blogs, of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell having an extended meltdown during the taping of his show, full of vulgar, expletive-laden explosions at his staff. Mediaite, the media gossip and news site, first released the video, and stitched together the multiple tantrums to make O’Donnell look especially ridiculous.

The tape resembles some classic moments from “SCTV on the Air,” the satirical syndicated ensemble comedy show ( with John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Ric Moranis, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas) that chronicled the mishaps of a struggling, fictional local TV station. It is indeed funny watching a news anchor lose it, and once he blows his gasket, O’Donnell is spectacular

You will not see Ethics Alarms criticizing O’Donnell, however. Nor will I link to the video.  (The clip of Steve Martin In “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” erupting at an airport rental car employee is as close as I will get.)  I know that I would be humiliated if one of my own bad moments during my work day, or after it, were surreptitiously videotaped and then leaked to the individuals I would least want to see it. I have had episodes, in the sparsely populated ProEthics offices, when stress, frustration, a series of horrible events and my own ineptitude have caused my emotions to boil over, and the resulting displays have not been something I would want shown to my grandchildren. If there is anyone who hasn’t had such episodes, I am awash in admiration.

I came close to having one today, in fact, after a string of annoyances was capped by the receipt of a summons from a deranged former commenter here, who is suing me for defamation because he says I was mean to him (I was; he deserved it) and wants me to pay him $100,000.  The suit is groundless and pure harassment, but I have better things to do with my time than deal with such things, and that did it for me.

My tirades are much more creative and active than O’Donnell’s. Also louder. Ask my wife.

There are few talking heads that I admire less than Lawrence O’Donnell. He is nasty, perpetually angry, and so left-biased that his head probably doesn’t turn to the right. I have been in the dark place where he was, however, and will be again. The only difference is that I do not have working with me the kind of unethical, vicious, back-stabbing  subordinates who would leak a video just to hurt me and my career. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

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How The Human Factor Foils Technology And Ethics: A Case Study (UPDATED)

Baseball finally installed a replay review system to address umpire calls that were shown by TV slow-mo to be clearly wrong. For all the complaining about the system, it was the only ethical choice. Mistaken calls were changing the results of games, and because of technology, this was now obvious to all. Only technology could solve the problem.

Unfortunately, however, human beings still control the technology. Bias, emotion and other impediments to ethics will still prevail more often than we like to think. Yesterday’s Red Sox Yankee game provided a classic example.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged a safe call on the Sox’s Andrew Benintendi when he slid into second base for an apparent double. The video showed that the second base umpire had missed the play. Upon review—the umpires put on headsets to get the verdict from a New York studio where another set of umpires check the video from multiple angles—the call was reversed, and Benintendi was out.

In the same inning, Red Sox manager John Farrell challenged an inning-ending double play. The review showed Red Sox baserunner Mookie Betts safely reached second before the throw, allowing the Red Sox to score the game’s first run. For the second time in a single inning, Greg Gibson,  the second base umpire, had his call reversed. I have never seen this happen before. For an umpire, this is not just embarrassing, it is professionally humiliating.

Later, in the seventh inning, the same star-crossed (cross-eyed?) umpire  called Yankee Greg Bird  out as he was doubled off second base after a lineout. The video this time was more conclusive than the first challenge: the umpire blew it, again. Bird had beat the throw.

While the challenge was being reviewed, the Red Sox broadcasters, who had concluded that Bir should have been called safe at second, were talking about the rarity of the same umpire being reversed three times in a single game. Sox color man Dennis Eckersley wondered aloud if professional courtesy and loyalty might affect the review.  What he was really asking was whether the umpires in New York would allow a colleague to be exposed to the disgrace of being reversed three times in one game. This wouldn’t only  make him look bad, after all. It would make umpires look bad. Three strikes and you’re out, after all.

Sure enough, the decision from New York was that the call at second was correct. Bird was out, even though the video showed he was safe.

The umpires have plausible deniability here: this was hardly the first time that a replay review seemed at odds with a video. Nonetheless, it was a sobering display. By all appearances, the umpires distorted the game to protect one of their own who was having a terrible night. They were employing the Golden Rule in the kind of setting where the Golden Rule works against an ethical result, not for it.

Fortunately for the umpires, allowing the third blown call at second was allowed to stand had no effect on the game’s outcome, but that is just moral luck. The umpires made a very clear statement. They regard loyalty to colleagues as more important than their profession, the game, their fans, or public trust. They, or at least the umpires involved, cannot be trusted to put aside their biases and conflicts when their duties demand it. Technology may be unbiased, but the humans using it are not. Professionals are not always professional when a colleague’s fate is involved.

Humanity is the ultimate conflict.

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From “The Progressive War On Free Speech” Files, The Unethical Website Of The Month: “Leave Your Dog Poop On Crissy Field”

I’d like to take a national poll, a California state poll and a San Francisco poll asking who thinks deliberately littering the site of a planned far-right demonstration with dog shit is an ethical thing to do. I think it would tell us a lot.

Patriot Prayer, a far right group that has held several  “free speech” events in the Pacific Northwest, applied for and was awarded a permit to hold a demonstration today on San Francisco’s Crissy Field.  San Francisco’s officials, being totalitarians at heart and like their increasingly senile but steadily anti-speech member of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, hostile to the concept of free speech, tried to pressure the National Park Service to deny the group a permit. The Service, foolishly hewing to the Constitution, demurred. The city’s police department  planned for a riot.

To foil the demonstrators, an artist named (yes, I checked this one for being a hoax) “Tuffy Tuffington,” had a brainstorm, or perhaps shit-storm is the better description:  to make the beach uninhabitable for Patriot Prayer First Amendment protected proceedings, he urged San Franciscans to plan to festoon Crissy Field, which is normally a lovely beach by the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, with piles of their various dogs’ droppings

“I just had this image of alt-right people stomping around in the poop,” said Tuffy, a self-righteous asshole. He is convinced that this is the best way to respond to right wing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville.  Presumably, President Trump will be required under threat of impeachment to declare that there is nothing wrong with defiling a public place and breaking the law to make it impossible for a group to demonstrate, because it is a false moral equivalency to insist that all Americans have equal access to Constitutional speech. Do I have that correct, Tuffy? 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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Comment Of The Day:”Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”’

This Comment of the Day is atypical, but I want to highlight it.

It’s doesn’t really matter what the original exchange was that prompted it, or who the other commenter was. What matters to me is that a respected, smart, articulate member of the colloquy here felt denigrated and mistreated, and that her experience as a commenter was diminished as a result. There may even have been a misunderstanding  involved; right now that is not my concern either.

I allow the discourse to get very intense here at times, and I will continue to. Lines are crossed—civility, insults, epithets, outbursts, personal attacks, mockery, blatant contempt–I cross them myself on occasion. Those who thrive here are remarkable, I have found, in taking rhetorical punches to the jaw and the gut and bouncing back without rancor or reduction in passion.

Nonetheless, the Golden Rule should never be too far out of mind on an ethics site. We can all make our points without being gratuitously nasty and mean. Stinging slapdowns can be fun–I enjoy them, though I save my worst for especially annoying visitors who I don’t care to have return—but they need to be kept to a minimum. Sincere, thoughtful, honest and perceptive commenters like Mrs. Q should never feel the way this post indicates that an exchange made her feel. Ethics Alarms is designed to be challenging and contentious, but not hostile. She hasn’t commented since this was filed; I hope that she has just been busy, because Mrs. Q  has been a unique and wonderful asset since she first dropped in a few months ago.

Let’s do better.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”

The level of disrespect you have shown me, with the snark & unwillingness to do the research yourself, tells anyone reading that there is something inside you that is either terribly unhappy or unhealthy. I cannot in good conscience continue to deal with someone who is so vengeful. You’ve proven you’re incapable of responding in a civil manner towards me when I have not insulted you in any similar way. It’s been a pattern & if you & I were in person I’d simply walk away & pray for you.

My disability makes my time precious & my family comes before internet commenting. That you would make fun of my need to prioritize my family over responding online says so much more about you than me.

I was planning on answering your questions but your last little dig is my last straw. I’m sure you’ll say I’m weak or not answering you b/c I’m scared or stupid or a TERF or whatever disparaging term you can think of & that’s fine. I won’t be goaded into your games. Continue reading

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