Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2019: Smirks, Grovels, Smears, Gotchas And Gracelessness

Gooooood MORNING!

Feeling blue today, so I had to start off with the great Charles Trenet magic ballad.

1. “I’m smart! I’m not dumb like everybody says!” Yesterday I hypothesized that Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees was fired because of sexual harassment allegations. Apparently I was right.

2. Another hypothesis! I think I may know why the unhinged media and MAGA-haters went so over-the-top bonkers over Nick Sandmann’s supposedly sinister smile when the Native American jerk was banging a drum in his face. We’ve been streaming 2018’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” on Netflix, and it is amazing how much Darren Criss, playing serial killer and sociopath Andrew Cunanan, resembles Sandmann in that unfortunate photo. I suspect that Martinez’s disturbing performance as a gay predator was sill percolating in the minds of some observers, and Sandmann’s “smirk” stirred extreme revulsion that wasn’t entirely his doing.

Look:

3.  “Never apologize; It’s a sign of weakness.” Capt. Nathan Brittles’ (John Wayne) rebuke of a young cavalry officer (Harry Caray Jr.) in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” is sometimes right, especially recently, when cowardly public figures apologize when they have done nothing wrong.

Yesterday, a group of students at an NYU vigil dedicated to the 49 people were murdered in two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand confronted Chelsea Clinton, accusing her of sparking the massacre by condemning the anti-Semitism of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “The 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there!” one student told her. If Chelsea had any integrity at all—and to be fair, given her parents, how could she?—she would have told all of the students that blaming a massacre in New Zealand on legitimate criticism of a Jew-bashing Muslim demagogue in the U.S. was moronic, and she should have queried the students about whether they got into college because someone had taken their tests for them, since they lacked the critical thinking skills to run a bait shop. But no…lacking integrity and courage, the former First Daughter grovelled to the mob, because that’s what good progressives are supposed to do in 2019, saying, “I’m so sorry that you feel that way. It was certainly never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity.”

Then there’s the latest entrant into the Democratic Presidential race, Beto O’Roarke, who yesterday apologized for for joking at several events in his first two days campaigning in Iowa that his wife has been raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” After grovelling for that, he  apologized for fiction he wrote when he was a teenager, using the pen-name Psychedelic Warlord, about murder written from the murderer’s point of view. He said he was “mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed… whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter.”

This kind of reaction is why the unethical Hader Gotcha! is becoming an epidemic. Bravo to Ann Althouse for a great take-down:

No. I want him to apologize to the teenager, the boy he once was. Apologize for saying he doesn’t matter. Apologize for being embarrassed for him. Who the hell are you to be embarrassed for him? You are erasing him. You are misappropriating him. What about the teenagers today who hear you and resolve never to write fiction lest it trip up some aggressively ambitious person they may grow into some day?

4. Meanwhile, another Hader Gotcha! finally fails. Right wing activists Jack Posobiec and  Mike Cernovich got James Gunn fired by Disney as the writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, after he unearthed old tweets in which Gunn made tasteless and politically incorrect jokes. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a Change.org petition asking Disney to reconsider. Of course, Gunn also grovelled sufficiently, saying that his tweets were “stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive and certainly not provocative like I had hoped.”

Cernovich and Posobiec maliciously set out to hurt Gunn after he had criticized President Trump on social media. Now Cernovich has demanded that Media Matters  boycott Disney ,  telling  TheWrap, “Disney’s rehiring of James Gunn presents an excellent opportunity for Angelo Carusone and Media Matters to show they are principled fighters for social justice. I eagerly await joining Media Matters’ boycott of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” This is all to prove that Media Matters is biased and hypocritical (like Cernovich), because it has called for a boycott of Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson based on his comments during an old interview with Bubba the Love Sponge.

Ethics note: Kant correctly declared that using human beings as a means to an end is unethical. But no one involved in this episode gave a thought to ethics at all, much less Emanuel Kant.

4.  This is why nobody should read Vox. From Ezra Klein’s website:

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US. “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report. That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims.

  •  The President has never  called immigrants “invaders.” He has called illegal immigrants, who fit the definition of invaders,  what they are. The victims of the two Mosque shootings were not illegal immigrants.
  • The President never uses the term “migrants,” which is another deceitful language tactic to blur the material differences between legal and illegal He does not want to “stop migrants” from entering the U.S. He wants to stop terrorists from entering the U.S., and he wants to stop illegal immigrants.
  • “Using the same language” as someone who does vile things is a desperately unethical accusation and contrived offense, unless the contexts are identical, the words used mean the same thing, and the intentions are the same. Here, they were not—not even close.

5. Rejecting democracy. Oh, let’s have Stacey Abrams run for President too! She fits. Like her increasingly anti-democratic and ironically named party, she wants to undermine public trust in elections. This week the defeated  Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate  again claimed that she won her November election against Republican Brian Kemp, though the vote tallies say otherwise. “I did win my election. I just didn’t get to have the job.”

She has no proof of this, of course;  just the continuing Democratic Party’s corrosive  Big Lie that the system is rigged against female and minority candidates. Hillary Clinton started this partisan trend of refusing to accept defeat with grace and magnanimity, as the system requires to remain viable, unless you want to count Al Gore. Now Abrams says that she will never concede that she lost. Naturally, Hillary, the worst loser in U.S. Presidential history, backs her up. (Clinton, you might recall, excoriated Donald Trump for trolling that he might not accept the election results as legitimate…when she assumed she would win.) Clinton said during her speech on the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” march,

“We know, don’t we, that candidates both black and white lost their races because they had been deprived of the votes they otherwise would have gotten. And the clearest example is from Georgia. Stacey Abrams should be governor, leading that state right now.”

We just know! Just like Democrats just know President Trump has done something impeachable, and just knew Justice Kavanaugh was a rapist, and just know all sorts of things so intensely that evidence and due process aren’t required.

Saturday Ethics Potpouri, 3/9/2019: Airlines, Trans Athletes, Mercy For Manafort, And More

Atlanta trip ethics musings…

1. Air Travel Ethics #1: Ethics Alarms has noted the ridiculous trend of air travelers imposing on their fellow passengers by exploiting the overly-permissive airlines polices of permitting emotional support animals on flights, resulting in innocent passengers having to share as aisle with  emotional support  toucans, sloths, goats and lizards. Finally, one airline has declared an end to the madness, or close to it. American Airlines updated its emotional support and service animal policies this week, and new “emotional support” companion  policies go into effect on April 1.
After that date, service animals will be limited to dogs, cats, and …all right, this is still nuts..,miniature horses. Only one emotional support animal per passenger will be allowed, and animals under the age of four months cannot fly.

GOOD!

2. Air Travel Ethics #2. This one is a bit more complicated ethically. Britain’s Virgin Atlantic airlines has eliminated the requirement that female flight attendants wear makeup, joining other major carriers that have loosened their dress and grooming standards  after complaints about turning female employees into sex objects.

Virgin Atlantic announced this week that female cabin crew members can skip the makeup if they choose, and also can wear pants instead of Virgin’s familiar red skirts.

“Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work,” Virgin Atlantic Executive Vice President Mark Anderson said in a statement.

This has always been a strange area. There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with any employer in a service industry requiring employees who deal with the public to meet reasonable standards of professionalism in their appearance. Are attractive, well groomed, neatly dressed employees a legitimate service enhancement? I believe so; on the other hand, what level of discrimination against the older, heavier and not so cute is acceptable? None? Some? The fact that women in the workplace wear make-up and men do not is automatically a cultural anomaly, but nonetheless, if all of the female attendants are wearing make-up and one isn’t, and looks like she just rolled out of bed, threw on some slacks and said, “The hell with it,” I’m not sure I trust that flight attendant.

The sex appeal aspect of flight attendants has always been one way, however, as if the only business flyers were still male, and National Air Lines was still using “I’m Cheryl! Fly me!” as a slogan. There is obviously no effort whatsoever to make male attendants attractive to female flyers: I estimate that more than half of all young male attendants are openly gay. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz And Comment Of The Day: The Governor’s Yearbook Photo [Corrected]

You know you’re having a bad week as a politician when one scandal knocks a another scandal you’re involved in off the front page. Welcome to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s world right now, and where he’ll end up in it, nobody knows.

In case you missed it, Northam and abortion-loving Democrats were in the midst of trying to justify his comments earlier in the week accepting the concept of legal infanticide when a medical school yearbook photo turned up on social media, showing the governor-to-be either in black face or wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. Yes, this was another Hader Gotcha: conservatives were looking for dirt under very old rugs.  Northam confirmed that it was indeed him in one of the two costumes (but not which!) and issued the now familiar “this is not who I am now” apology:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said in his statement. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”

It was immediately clear that this would not suffice. Northam is a Democrat, after all, and that is the party of race-baiting. Republicans weren’t likely to let Northam talk his way out of this either, not after he won his close 2017 gubernatorial election against Republican Ed Gillespie with the assistance of a jaw-dropping TV ad ad linking Gillespie to  the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and showing the GOP candidate trying to run down minority kids in his car.  Although the ad was not a product of his campaign, Northam refused to condemn it, and his campaign reported it as an “in-kind contribution.” The campaign also sent out a mailer tying Guillespie to white nationalists.

What Republicans say about the yearbook photo doesn’t matter, however. Northam’s own party turned on him, with his Democratic predecessor Terry McAulliffe, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and the Democrats in Virginia’s state legislature all calling on him to resign.

After all, casually endorsing infanticide is easy to defend to the hard-core Democratic base, but wearing a tasteless costume 38 years ago while a student is unforgivable.

Wait…what?

The instant issue might be moot in a few hours, as the betting is that Northam will resign, but  your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day’s  question will remain:

Should Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo require him to resign as Virginia Governor?

Continue reading

The Lawyer Version Of “The Hader Gotcha”

“GOTCHA!”

My legal ethics colleagues have their briefs in a bunch over a case in which an enterprising news media reporter dredged up old, old —but scintillating!—professional discipline on two lawyers taking on the defense of a much-hated defendant in a sensational and heinous crime.

One had been suspended for taking client money, but was eventually reinstated. The other had been reprimanded for having a sexual relationship with a client. The idea, of course, was to make the lawyers look bad. The issue is whether this is a fair use of attorney discipline, especially in the latter case.

The episode is similar to the Hader Gotcha, which we have discussed here several times, in which deep social media divers look for embarrassing youthful social media posts from the past, even from teen years, to use to turn the public against the individual, or at least to force the target to grovel an apology. It is also similar to the Brett Kavanaugh hit from Dr. Blasey-Ford, though I doubt this would occur to my overwhelmingly “woke” legal ethicist friends.

The lawyer raising the issue represents attorneys faced with disciplinary complaints, and asks why this is happening, feels that it is unfair, since the discipline wasn’t recent and had nothing to do with the current case, and thinks it is wrong that the reporter didn’t bother to talk to the bar association or the lawyers themselves to get proper context. He also asks whether anything can be done about it, including, perhaps, not publicizing some varieties of lawyer discipline.

The lawyer also asks,

Do I need to warn my clients that a collateral consequence of discipline is that if they ever take a high-profile case, the press might dredge up old dirt when covering the case?

This is too easy:

  • Welcome to the internet age! No, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this, except to create a more ethical culture of journ…sorry, I couldn’t get that out without laughing.
  • The legal profession has never been able to explain to the public, and apparently not to journalists either, though they should be less ignorant, that representing accused criminals and guaranteeing even guilty citizens their rights isn’t an adverse reflection on a lawyers’ character. As a result, someone will always think it’s fun, justified and fair to look for dirt in a defense lawyer’s personal or professional past. Thanks to the web, it’s easier than ever.
  • Yes, you need to warn your clients. I’m surprised you weren’t doing so already.
  • And it’s not just legal discipline. Anything potentially embarrassing that can be found on the web, including social media posts [Lawyers: Don’t use Twitter!] can and will be dug up and weaponized.
  • As a result, past discipline, and any other potentially embarrassing information about a lawyer now falls into Rule 1.4 territory, information the client has a right to know and must be informed about in order to participate in his or her own case.
  • No, all lawyer discipline should be reported. The public has a right to know.

Twitter Ethics, “Punching Down” Ethics: The Trevor Bauer Affair

The Pitcher And his Non-Fan

So it’s come to this. It isn’t enough to use past juvenile tweets as a means to shame and subordinate professional athletes. Now the sportswriting establishment is lobbying for teams to exercise control over their social media conduct and style even when no slurs or even alleged slurs are involved.

Trevor Bauer is an established major league starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, finally emerging a s star after many years of dreaded “potential.” He’s not a kid–he’s 27—but in his public dealings and image be appears to be about 14. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. He plays a kid’s game, and young sportswriters cheer players now who make faces, preen, trash talk and engage in extreme on-the-field celebrations. Dignity on the field is considered passe, a problem for baseball. Be out there! Show personality!

Ah, but some sportswriters have decided that they are the arbiters of what kind of eccentricities are acceptable, even off the field. For some reason, sports media like NBC Sports and ESPN have decided to pollute sports reporting with the unqualified declarations of woke and aspiring social justice warriors.  I know not why, unless it is part of the full immersion progressive indoctrination strategy that the news media has joined.

At NBC Sports, two baseball writers, Bill Baer and Craig Calcaterra, are such devoted leftist propagandists that any regular reader can predict their screeds before reading them. If the baseball page isn’t just lifting news unaccredited from other sites (MLB Trade Rumors, diligent, competent, and blissfully politics free, is the main victim), Baer or Calcaterra are making arguments that Rep. Oacsio-Cortez would endorse in a heartbeat. For example, they believe that it is travesty of justice that team owners aren’t willing to pay millionaire players what the players feel they “deserve” rather than what is prudent for the owners’ budgets and what makes sense based on reasonable assessments of a players’ value.

Recently Bill Baer decided to demand the Indians and MLB “do something” about Trevor Bauer. The full presumptuousness and arrogance of his argument cannot be appreciated without quoting him extensively, which I will do now, with periodic commentary. The post is headlined, “Indians, MLB need to take Trevor Bauer’s harassing tweets seriously.”

He begins by an unethical device called “poisoning the well,” using an irrelevant episode or accusation to pre-bias readers:

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is what we extremely online people call “extremely online” [which means] to inculcate oneself to Internet culture, including humor. Bauer exemplified this last year when he went to arbitration with the Indians. He wanted to file for $6.9 million, but …the right-hander was warned that the figure was too high and could result in him losing his case. He then wanted to file for $6,420,969.69. Why 69? As any teenager can tell you, it references a sexual position and that’s funny stuff on the Internet. Why 420? Well, that references April 20, or 4/20, a day of celebration for marijuana enthusiasts…Bauer started “The 69 Days of Giving” in which he would donate $420.69 daily to a different charity. On the 69th and final day, he pledged to donate $69,420.69 to a secret charity. So, that gives you a bit of a picture of Bauer’s personality and sense of humor. .

Oh, who cares? I love “offensive jokes” that have to be explained so people can find them offensive. The encomium that “if you detect a dog whistle, you’re the dog” seems apt here. Who, except geeks like Baer, look for coded drug and sex messages in salary demands? But Baer was just getting warmed up…

That was mostly fine until two days ago when Bauer responded to a critic on Twitter. The critic, a baseball fan named Nikki, wrote of Bauer, “My new least favorite person in all sports,” tagging Bauer’s Twitter account (@BauerOutage). Bauer responded, “Welcome to the fan club” and included a kiss emoji. If that was the start and end of it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But Bauer persisted, repeatedly going after her. …Bauer also replied to Nikki’s tweets publically – direct replies can only be seen by those who follow both parties – which allowed all 134,000 of his followers to get in on the drama and chime in. Bauer was repeatedly inviting his fans to harass Nikki on his behalf, and they did. Nikki ended up temporarily deleting her account. Responding to a Bauer fan who criticized her for deleting, Nikki wrote, “Sorry I didn’t like being told to kill my self for 4 days straight. You’re right. I’m so soft.”

…Why is Bauer’s behavior wrong? Simply put, it’s because there’s a power imbalance and Bauer exploited that to harass a woman, a baseball fan. Even after the online fracas with Bauer, Nikki has only 600 followers. Only a handful of people would go to bat for Nikki, but even a tiny percentage of Bauer’s 134,000 followers going after Nikki constitutes a gross amount of abuse. Let’s say that only 0.5 percent got involved. That’s still 670 people — more than Nikki’s entire follower count. It’s tough to get an actual count of just how many people were in Nikki’s mentions as a result of her interactions with Bauer, but a cursory search shows it’s quite a lot.

In short, Bauer wielded his power – his fame and online influence – improperly and unfairly towards Nikki. He bullied her. It is also notable that Bauer chose to obsess this way over a female critic. He has never gone to this length to challenge a male critic.

Now that Bauer has gone Full Social Justice #MeToo Virtue-Signaling Avenger, let’s unpack this.

First, this isn’t “harassment” by any legal or ethical definition. The woman, who for all Bauer knew could have been  a dog, or President Trump, gratuitously attacked him, calling him in an early tweet, ” a professional athlete that tweets like a 16 year girl on her period.”  Should Bauer have taken the bait and engaged in a nasty exchange? It was unwise. It was imprudent. It was tit-for-tat. However, the playing field was Twitter, and the fan voluntarily engaged him on it. Baer’s argument makes no sense: he is arguing that a non-celebrity can attack a celebrity online and in social media, but if the celebrity strikes back in kind, it’s “punching down.”

Balderdash. Continue reading

The Ethics Incompleteness Theory, The Bigot Doctor,”The Hader Gotcha,” And The Apology Scale

Yes, she actually has both arms. She’s also photogenic: the Democrats should nominate her for Congress.

I christened the Hader Gotcha last year after several athletes were forced to apologize for youthful social media comments that suggested a bigoted or insensitive state of mind. The ethics Alarms position on people looking through old social media posts to embarrass public figures and force them to grovel apologies to which ever group their comments offended was summarized in this post in the moderate, calm manner for which I am justly praised:

As I have written here before, searching for lingering social media idiocy that an athlete authored before he could drink or vote is despicable conduct, as is anyone making an issue of  what the deep Twitter dives expose. First, what a baseball player said or thought—they are often not the same thing—in the past has nothing to do with his job, which is playing baseball and not making social policy, and second, nothing anybody says or even does before their brain has matured should be held against them in adulthood, unless it is criminal, and even then the law urges us to be forgiving. I know that a lot of social justice warriors think that any racist, sexist or homophobic comments made post birth should be treated a crimes, but they are anti-democratic nuts, and hostile to free thought and speech, so to hell with them.

That post was largely ignored, because too many readers here still fail to grasp that ethics issues arising in baseball often, indeed usually, have broader wisdom to convey. Since I wrote it, the employment of the Hader Gotcha has been expanded outside the realm of sports, most notably the recent example of Kevin Hart, the popular comic who was attacked the very day he was designated as the host of the upcoming Oscars. Hart was forced to withdraw because a Hader Gotcah exposed old anti-gay tweets. This time, however, I agreed that the tweets mandated his withdrawal, writing, Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/18: Silent Sam, Nasty Nancy, Tendentious TIME

Happy pre-Christmas panic days!

Once we’re under the two week mark, it’s all anxiety, regrets, list-making, fatigue, nostalgia, and tree needles under the nails. This is what Andy called “the most wonderful time of the year.

1. The theory: political correctness and historical airbrushing is a higher priority than education. The University of North Carolina \Board of Trustees’ approved of a proposal to build erect a $5 million history center that would, among other things, house “Silent Sam,” a statue dedicated to fallen UNC grads who fought for the Confederacy. The statue stood on campus until protesters tore it down in August. Now some faculty members and graduate assistants are threatening to go on a “grade strike,” withholding grades on papers and exams to force the school to abandon “Silent Sam” for all time. They are also trying to encourage students to support their protest.

Wrote the UNC administration in response:

“This afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike,” Blouin said in the email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “The University has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law….Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities, and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten[s] their eligibility,” the provost stated. “The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students…“Failure to meet [the faculty and GA’s] responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences.”

Firing, I hope.

2. Boy, that Trump is such an uncivil boor! House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting a civility example for us all while describing her meeting with the President on “the wall’: “It’s like a manhood thing for him, as if manhood could ever be associated with him….It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

Nice.

Imagine the howls of indignation if the President described a foreign leader in such terms. Or the mass condemnation from both parties and the news media if any prior President had been insulted that way by a member of Congress.

3. “A person, a group, an idea, or an object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” I would applaud TIME’s choice of journalists as the fading magazine’s “Person of the year” if it had the integrity to point out that this is an example of “the worse.” Indeed, journalists have deliberately warped and sabotaged public debate and discourse, withheld or buried information the public needs to know, divided the nation, defied their profession’s ethical standards, undermined their own institution and with it the health of American democracy, relentlessly worked to destabilize the Trump administration and undo the election, and have engaged in repeated incompetence, bias, dishonesty and conflicts of interest. The harm journalists have done is incalculable, and probably irreversible.

Quipped “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams: “Fake News is TIME’s “Person of the Year.”

Bingo. Continue reading