Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3 Of 3: Potpouri! [Continued]

  • Grandstanding as always, Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that all of the Confederates honored in the Capital Gallery should come down. How odd that this never occurred to her when she was Speaker of the House and the Democrats held the Senate and the White House.

The Gallery is exactly the kind of enclosed public space for display that the statue-topplers argue should house the controversial statuary, places where their context can be considered outside of the public square. They don’t mean it, though. They want the statues hidden away, so nobody will see then without searching for them like Indiana Jones.

  • It was nice of Duke to show just how calculated and hypocritical this sudden eruption of horror at long-standing monuments is. While the school is capitulating to students by removing another statue of Lee from its chapel, there seem to be no plans to tear down the statue of George Washington Duke  a Confederate soldier and a slave owner. Duke’s son, Buck, gave a large endowment to  what was then called Trinity College, and in appreciation, the school changed its name to Duke University. And this happened in the twenties, which proves that the real objective was to salute Jim Crow—or so we are being told now.

Duke was named after a confederate soldier and a slave owner, meaning that by the Left’s logic the entire school is a memorial to white supremacy and slavery. But the students who happily agreed to have his name appended to their life forever are traumatized by a campus statue of General Lee. Continue reading

Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3 Of 3: Potpouri!

The Charlottesville  fiasco combined several ethics train wrecks, as I mentioned before, creating The Perfect Ethics Train Wreck. We have the airbushing away historical figures now out of favor ETW, the progressive anti-free speech ETW, the long-running 2017 Post Election ETW, which involves the news media’s determination to blow up any word or deed by the President, large, small, ambiguous or insignificant, into a justification to remove him. We have the burgeoning “pro-violence as long as it is against the far right caboose,” and the “Let’s figure out what the motives were behind specific statues, regardless of whether they were legitimate heroes or admired historical figures in the times in which the lived” cattle car. And, of course, the intensifying assault on free expression locomotive, bolstered by the guilt by association diesel engine.

What a mess. It is made worse by the fact that many of these rooted in fascinating and nuanced ethics problems, but being discussed on line and elsewhere by  single-minded, narrow-view, partisan, doctrinaire, hypocrites and  fools.

I’m going to root through some of the wreckage now…

  • Former African American NBA star and freelance social commentator Charles Barkley weighed in on the controversy by saying, “Who the hell cares about Confederate statues?” Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t: it’s like the Washington Redskins. The controversy is driven by small, intense minorities forcing people to take sides over issues that they never thought about before. Adds conservative blogger Allahpundit:

“Remember, 62 percent told Marist that statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should remain in place as historical symbols. That includes a plurality of blacks (44/40). If you nudge people to state an opinion on whether CSA monuments should stay or go, you’ll get a divide but one that leans strongly towards leaving them in place. If you include a “there are more important things to worry about” or “eh” option, the numbers that are effectively in favor of the status quo can only rise. Most people, I suspect, just don’t care much either way. In the end, to Barkley and to many, many others, we’re arguing about scenery.”

But apathy and ignorance don’t mean that important principles are not at stake, or that we are not facing a dangerous slippery slope. The blogger continues,

There’s peril in that, though, if you believe firmly in leaving the statues in place. The number of people who feel passionately about smashing monuments may be small but they’re motivated and have a defensible argument that these are tributes to white supremacy more than to the Confederacy or “gallantry” or whatever. If they succeed in pressuring local governments to remove them, the “eh” contingent (which includes Barkley) will flip the other way: “Now that they’re gone, there’s no sense obsessing over them anymore. What’s done is done.” The politics of “what done is done” are slippery here, easily mutating potentially from justifying the pro-statue position to the anti-statue one. Which, I guess, is why we’re destined for a big public argument over it despite wide apathy towards the subject across the population. Dedicated believers in leaving the statues alone know that if they don’t push back diligently, the tear-’em-down contingent will prevail through sheer agitative will.

Cultures can take tragic and destructive turns when a radical minority steers the ship after the majority shrugs and says, “Oh, let them have their way.” Freedom of thought, expression and communication often die by millimeters. Continue reading

Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2 Of 3: Amy Alkon Loses Her Mind

Part One is here.

Perhaps the scariest capitulation to the Confederate statue hysteria is Amy Alkon, the usually astute and level-headed blogger, advice columnist and political correctness foe (her book is called “Good Manners For People Who Sometimes Say Fuck“). I often quote her and cite her blog, which in some ways is similar to Ethics Alarms.  Tragically, this issue has both lobotomized and hypocritized her:

Not “Foolish” To Remove Confederate Statues From Public Squares — It’s What We Do To Be Decent Human Beings And Fellow Americans To Black Americans

That “so foolish” remark is how the President put it — and, as usual — as John McWhorter pointed out on CNN, it comes from an impulse appropriate to a 12-year-old boy.

There’s the argument some are dragging out that Jefferson owned slaves (so shouldn’t we yank his statues and pictures, too?). I’m disgusted by that; however, it’s a side note to what he was to this country — to all he gave to this country. So, no, I’m not for going around the country and doing searching background checks on all the subjects of monuments and pulling them down.

Having monuments to confederate leaders in public squares, however, is like naming a school “Hitler Junior High.”

It’s a horrible slap in the face to black citizens and it makes me sadder than any of the stuff that we’ve seen in the news lately.

Yes, disgustingly, people are actually fighting to have monuments up that glorify people who believed blacks to be inferior and fought to the death to protect that view and the shameful capture and enslavement of other human beings that went with it….

What? What hysterical, historically ignorant social justice warrior has a cocked gun at Amy’s head, making her type crap like this? Let’s see:

1. It is foolish…short sighted, destructive, presentist, hysterical, knee-jerk—to remove “Confederate statues” by which Suddenly Stupid Amy really means “Individuals who at some point in their career performed bravely or ingeniously in the Confederate army, or on the side the Confederacy.” Are monuments to President John Tyler, who served in the Confederate cabinet, Confederate monuments? Tyler is the one who decided that the Vice President should become President, not just acting-President, when a President dies in office. I’ve visited his home in Virginia; we honor him on President’s Day.

If Tyler hadn’t made his stand for the continuity of government, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the masterful liberal Democrat who moved heaven and earth to pass the Civil Rights Act, would almost surely never have been President at all. Every American should raise their eyes heavenward in thanks to Tyler’s statues and monuments, especially African Americans. Were his honors raised to emphasize Jim Crow? Hardly. Jefferson Davis was a distinguished statesman based on his public service before the civil war, just as Pete Rose was a record-setting baseball player before he got himself thrown out of baseball for gambling. Pete’s statue is justified for his on-field achievements, just as Davis’s honors can be justified by his that had nothing to do with the Confederacy.

2.The President’s words are typical of a twelve-year old. Those criticizing him for properly standing up for his nation’s historical record, complex human beings and major figures in our history who are not just good or bad but an amalgam of influences, upbringing, the times and regions in which they lived and the circumstances under which they made crucial choices, and for seeing immediately the perils of forced cultural amnesia may be more articulate—it isn’t hard—but have failed a test of citizenship that he has passed with flying colors.

3. The fact that Thomas Jefferson was not only a slaveholder but one who repeatedly raped a slave who did not have the power to say “no” while he was extolling her “inalienable rights” is no “side issue.” How breezily Alkon, a fierce feminist, abandons her values so she can oppose Donald Trump!

Yechh.

Alkon is taking the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in her teeth. “We must pull down the statues and memorials of supporters of slavery because they are insults to African Americans, but Jefferson isn’t really a supporter of slavery.” No, he was also a moral coward, a liar, a thief, and perhaps the biggest hypocrite in American history.  Forced to choose, I’ll take Robert E. Lee over Jefferson for character every time. However, Tom wrote our mission statement as a nation, defined our values in his words (though not his conduct), and managed to pull off the Louisiana Purchase.

Those achievements are worth every honor we have given him. The thesis behind the statue assault, however, is that only the bad stuff recognized in hindsight matters. Amy’s rebuttal to those who rightly recognize the unethical nature of that assertion consists of shouting “That’s ridiculous!” She doesn’t have a legitimate rebuttal. There isn’t one. Continue reading

Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading

From The “I Told You So Files”: First They Came For General Lee…[UPDATED]

UPDATE: Because the first two news sources I had were in error, I originally posted that the event described occurred this week. It did not: it occurred in October of last year.

Just a few hours ago, I was explaining to a usually wise and rational commenter why her willingness to allow periodic purges of statues and memorials honoring those individuals who past members of our society determined were worthy of continuing honor. The figure in question was Robert E. Lee, not one of my personal favorites, but a generally recognized military genius and easily a man whose life and accomplishments included several justifications for permanent memorials. My favorite: Lee personally vetoed the Confederacy’s fallback plan of taking the war to a guerilla stage, extending the conflict indefinitely. It might well have worked, but Lee refused. I’ll happily grant him some perpetual statuary for that. But the self-righteously intolerant practitioners of presentism want Lee cast as a an irredeemable villain, and his statues toppled.  There are many reasons why this kind of self-imposed cultural amnesia is offensive, harmful and stupid, but in my exchange with that usually wise and rational commenter, I focused on the slippery slope, writing,

You cannot articulate what the stop is on that slippery slope that doesn’t end with blowing up Mount Rushmore.

Imagine my surprise, not to be proven right, for that occurs often, but to be proven right so quickly by a news report I just read concerning a protest  by more than 200 political correctness  maniacs inside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Their goal: take down the statue of former of Theodore Roosevelt—historian, author, scholar, orator,  political philosopher, war hero, patriot, cowboy, explorer, public servant, the father of conservationism, the creator of the National Parks system, President and one of progressivism’s founding pioneers—and, of course, one of the Mount Rushmore Four. The protest’s organizers, NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place, called the statue of the former New York City police commissioner and former New York governor  a “stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,” adding in a statement that “The statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.” The protesters carried signs that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “DECOLONIZE THIS MUSEUM,” and “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY.”

Of course they did.

Continue reading

Another Religious Freedom vs. Gay Rights Ethics Clash: The Country Mill Farms Farms Affair

Steve Tennes (above) and his devout Catholic family own  Country Mill Farms, Winery, Orchard and Cider Mill. in Charlotte, Michigan. The picturesque locale makes additional income by renting out the venue for weddings and events.

Last August, a visitor to Country Mill’s Facebook page asked if they hosted gay weddings at the farm. Tennes answered in the negative, explaining that his Catholic family believes marriage should be between a man and woman. The Tennes family sells its products at an East Lansing  farmers market, and that city’s officials were notified of their “no gay weddings” policy. A city ordinance  requires that participants in the market, even those not located within East Lansing city limits, have to agree with its non-discrimination ordinance.  “I think it’s a very strong principle that you should not be discriminating against somebody elsewhere and then come here and want to participate in our market,” East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas told the news media.

Lansing  officials urged (threatened?)  Tennes to comply with its ordinance, so the farm stopped hosting weddings of any kind for a while. Then Tennes decided to defy the order and announced on Facebook that the farm would resume hosting weddings, but only those involving a man and a women. In turn, the city told Tennes that his farm would not be welcome at the farmer’s market for the 2017 season.

“It was brought to our attention that The Country Mill’s general business practices do not comply with East Lansing’s Civil Rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination as set forth in Chapter 22 of the City Code and outlined in the 2017 Market Vendor Guidelines, as such, The Country Mill’s presence as a vendor is prohibited by the City’s Farmer’s Market Vendor Guidelines,” the city said in a letter to the family. Just coincidentally I’m sure,  East Lansing recently updated its civil rights ordinance to include discrimination at “all business practices” for participants the city’s farmers market. City Mayor Mark Meadows said the farm’s exclusion is based on the Tennes family’s “business decision” to exclude same-sex weddings. (Since the limitations on the weddings performed undoubtedly forfeits business, I have my doubts about whether the city can win the claim that it is a business decision and not a religious one.)

Now the farm is suing East Lansing. “Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing,” Tennes said at a press conference last week “Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell to the people that attend the farmers markets who are from all backgrounds and all beliefs.”

The suit asks the court to restore Country Mill Farms’ freedoms, stop East Lansing’s “discriminatory policy,” and award damages. The city claims its policy is in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating a ban on same-sex marriage.

My first comment: Yechhh. I’ll sure be clad when society is accustomed enough to same-sex couples that people stop treating them like they are viruses and other people stop bullying those who are slow to accept the cultural shift into submission.

I think East Lansing loses this lawsuit, or at least should.

At first it reminded me of this case, from 2014, where a family-run chapel was initially told by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho that it had to hold same-sex weddings. The city backed down, but the decisive issue in that case was that the chapel’s minister would be forced to do a ceremony that his religious beliefs didn’t permit. Forced speech is as unconstitutional as restricted speech, so the city eventually said, “Never mind!”

I wrote in part,

What’s next, legally requiring citizens to accept invitations to gay weddings? Make sure they get a nice gift? …It appears not to even occur to dedicated gay marriage rights activists that Americans can’t be forced to say what the good people think they should say, or support what the right people insist they should support. I happen to believe that same-sex marriages are good, and that legalizing them is right. Nonetheless, if you tell me I have to officiate at one of them or be fined, we have a problem. This kind of fascism from the left—and that’s what it is— forfeits the support of the fair, the moderate and the sane…Any advance in ethics can become a slippery slope to the unethical, and this is a good example. Personal autonomy still matters; freedom of belief is still an important right to respect and protect. Slippery slopes need sand, and this is an excellent example of why.

The ethics issue here is related, but different. This one reminds me more of the Chic-Fil-A controversy, when various mayors were announcing that because the company’s owner was a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, his business wasn’t welcome in their cities. I wrote (in part) about that ethics train wreck: Continue reading

Lasers, Ethics, And Baseball

"TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!"

“TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!”

Out of the ever-rich world of major league baseball comes another excellent example of how technology challenges, stretches and confounds traditional ethics.

Over the last decade or so,  it has become possible to track exactly where every ball put into play by every batter goes, and even how fast it gets there. As a result, computers can generate spray charts that will indicate the optimum defensive placements for the opposing team’s players, maximizing the chance that a batter will hit a ball within reach of a fielder. When Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau positioned four infielders on the right side of the field to foil Ted Williams, the “Williams shift” was considered radical and revolutionary. Today, there are shifts designed for a majority of players.

The problem is that with so many shifts, making sure each defensive player is in the right place becomes a challenge.  Now some teams are experimenting with using lasers to mark the grass, so a player will know exactly where to position himself. Continue reading

“Ick” Or Unethical: The NBA Decides To Let Its Players Be Human Billboards

Classy. I can't wait.

Classy. I can’t wait.

News Item, from ESPN:

The NBA announced… that the board of governors has approved a three-year pilot program to allow teams to sell a corporate logo on their jerseys.

Teams can now start pitching companies on buying a 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch space as the NBA becomes the first of the four major U.S. sports leagues to put ads on regular game-day jerseys. In an era when virtually every facet of the sports experience is advertised or sponsored, the uniform had been the last ad-free haven.

The first season of the program will be in 2017-18…

“It’s my hope, independent of whatever additional revenues are generated through this patch program, that the greatest impact will be in this amplifying effect of companies choosing to associate directly with a team jersey, then going out and promoting that relationship to the largest market,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

Silver said the league had calculated that the program will be worth about $100 million a year.

Well, ick.

It’s not bad enough that a city’s sports teams have to play in arenas and stadiums named after pet food retailers, banks, car insurance companies and fraudulent corporations rather than local landmarks and community heroes. Now our kids’ heroes will be branded with commerce too…not literally, of course. Not yet.

The NBA has always been the crassest of the major league sports, so the identity of the first league to break one of the last barriers of money-grubbing indignity was preordained. Most of the NBA’s fans, who already don’t mind that the league corrupts college sports and glorifies men who collect illegitimate children the way normal people collect matchbooks, don’t care, so this was not a hard call for the NBA, I would guess.

It’s gross, but is anything wrong with it? After all, NBA players already accept money to put their names on products. It isn’t as if they have an aura of purity about them, and their obvious venality pales in the shadow of game-winning three-pointers and spectacular dunks. What ethical principle is being violated by the NBA turning its players into walking, jumping, shooting billboards? Continue reading

Ten Ethics Musings On The “Unethical Photograph Of The Year” And The Daughters of Villi and Mary Kay

Here's my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in "The Artist." It's a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

Here’s my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in “The Artist.” It’s a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

I should have included these with original post, but the photo so nauseated me that I was barely capable of critical thought. I’m still nauseated, but better. So now I offer these ten question and thoughts:

1. Will this photo and its implication be used by cultural to excuse student-teacher sexual liaisons? They are grotesquely unethical when minors are involved, but professionally reprehensible even when the loving couple are college professor and student.

2. I presume it will. As I noted in the original post, this photo is a breeding ground for rationalizations, “No harm, no foul” among them, and of course, “It all worked out for the best.” This is like showing the modern China that arose out of Mao’s slaughter of millions with the face of the Great Leader superimposed over it all. It worked out so well! How can anyone argue with that?

3. Every time a grossly wrongful act creates some unanticipated good, consequentialism runs amuck. If Mary Kay  and Rape Victim Vili had produced children who had arms growing out of their mouths or who were drug-addicts and cat-burners, the same people who look at the photo now and say  “Awww!” would be pointing and crowing, “See?”

4. The proper comparison is a family created through incest. That taboo is so powerful still that a similar photo of Mom, Dad/Grandad and lovely Daughter–No, Sister! No, Daughter! No, Sister! (Sorry, I was having a “Chinatown” flashback) would not garner the kind of positive reaction too many are having to the Happy Fualaau. Continue reading

Speech And Thought Control At CUNY

The minds of your children aren't safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there...

The minds of your children aren’t safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there…

A responsible parent has an ethical duty to pull their child out of any university that does  something like this.

From The College Fix:

“Effective Spring 2015, the (graduate center’s) policy is to eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties,” Louise Lennihan, interim provost, states to employees in a recent memo. “Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations.” Lennihan instructs staffers to interpret the new policy “as broadly as possible,” that it applies to “all types of correspondence, such as: all parts of any letter including address and salutation, mailing labels, bills or invoices, and any other forms or reports,” states the memo, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by school spokeswoman Tanya Domi. Rather than using “Mr.” or “Ms.,” staff are instructed to refer to students by his or her full name. The policy will “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … [and] accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” Lennihan states in the memo.

Now, I almost never use these salutations any more. “Mr.” has always seemed pompous to me, and now it reminds me of the New York Times with its tradition of calling the President “Mr. Obama.” (Over the weekend, the Times garnered guffaws for calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “Mr. Scott” throughout an op-ed. Nice editing there). “Miss” seems condescending, “Mrs.” is a minefield, and “Ms.” sounds ugly while being both dated and unwelcome from some women. (Once I called a women “Ms.” and she barked at me, “Do I look like a dyke to you???”) And I hate being called Mister myself. All of the is irrelevant, It is not any university’s business to enact speech codes, banned words, or other undemocratic and ideologically driven attempts at censorship and speech control. Speech control is thought control, and thought control is indoctrination. Continue reading