Wednesday Ethics, 9/2/2020: Faking Here, Faking There, Faking, Faking Everywhere!

Good Wednesday!

It will probably not surprise you to learn that I have been a huge Charles Addams fan since I was a child, when I borrowed every one of  his collections from the Arlington Public Library. My two favorites, I think: the unicorns on a rock gazing sadly after the Ark as it floats away in the rain, and the butchers and his sons being attacked by links of sausages, mirroring the famous statue of Laocoön and his sons being devoured by serpents.

Laocoön’s fate is an ethics fable: Troy’s priest tried to warn the Trojans that the huge wooden horse was a trap, but instead of heeding his warning, the Trojans, having convinced themselves that the thing was a gift from the gods, assumed that the priest and his sons had been killed because the warning was blasphemy. In truth, the serpents had been sent by Poseidon, who was rooting for the Greeks all along. Historian Barbara Tuchman used the story of Laocoön in her book “The March of Folly,” a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms.

I was just depressed to discover, as I searched for a picture of Wednesday online, that the one above is only one of two out of hundreds that were genuine Addams drawings of her. What does that tell us?

1. More manipulated media. Yes, Twitter should flag these sorts of deceptions as long as they are non-partisan about it. In addition to the Steve Scalise fake I wrote about here, Twitter pointed out two more, also from the Republicans. White House social media director Dan Scavino posted a 2011 Joe Biden interview from California-news outlet KBAK that was altered to make it falsely appear as if Biden had fallen asleep—“Sleepy Joe,” get it? The fake was pointed out by John Dabkovitch, KBAK’s co-anchor at the time, who noted that the interview was actually with singer Harry Belafonte, not Biden. (I always get those two mixed up too.)

Then the Twitter account @TrumpWarRoom, which is the Trump campaign, posted a tweet that lifted Biden’s words out of context so it seems like Joe said “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” when he was quoting what Trump was suggesting in his remarks.

Like the Scalise tweet, both of these are embarrassingly stupid, and mandate firings. How can anyone tolerate a social media director who does something like this? He probably cheated on his SATs…[Pointer: valkygrrl]

2. I hereby volunteer to be the President’s 24-7 Ethics-sitter this kind of  stuff  doesn’t happen.... During his visit to peaceful protest-ravaged Kenosha,  the President wanted to have a photo op in front of the century-old Rode’s Camera Shop, which was peacefully burned out a week ago. The owner, Tom Gram, is not a fan, however, and he declined President Trump’s request to participate in the damage tour yesterday.  So the Trump flacks tracked down the previous owner and descendant of the original owners. He sold the shop eight years ago to Gram, yet President Trump  introduced him as “John Rode III, owner of Rode’s Camera Shop.” Rode went on to praise the President. Rode does own the property where the camera shop had been. [Again, pointer: valkygrrl]

3. Why do they keep doing this? First it was the Mayor of Chicago who violated her own pandemic edicts to have her hair done, and now it’s Nancy Pelosi, caught below at a salon, maskless…

…(“You must wear your mask!” she commanded Americans earlier last month) as she sought beautification at a San Francisco hair salon  this week despite local ordinances keeping salons closed. This is hypocrisy and entitled behavior, plus “laws are for the little people,” personified. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)

This is really bad.

Yesterday, Twitter flagged an outrageously  manipulated video clip posted by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise  (R-La.) that deliberately alters the text of a question from activist Ady Barkan to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“No police. Mob rule. Total chaos. That’s the result of the Democrat agenda,” Scalise tweeted. “Ask yourself: Is this what you want in your town next?”

Good question! However, Scalise added what was supposed to be a link to the  Biden interview with Barkan, who uses a computerized artificial voice because he suffers from Lous Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). The interviewer asks Biden if “we agree that we can redirect some of the funding” for police departments toward public safety and mental health services. Biden responds, “Yes.”

Scalise tweeted a version of the clip that inserts the words “for police” into Barkan’s question by duplicating his computer-generated voice.

That’s about as low as you can go. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Hypocrisy And Dishonesty Of The Democratic National Convention Apparently Made Rose McGowan’s Head Explode”

Glenn Logan took on the macro-issue of broad-brush political pronouncements in his Comment of the Day, which was only touched upon in the original post. That concerned activist Rose McGowran’s angry tweets,

I wrote in part that

“we see the limitations of Twitter…its advantage is that it is the only way to communicate with a large—far, far too large—proportion  of the American public, which is unlikely if not unable to read anything serious that has more words than a combination of three or four bumperstickers…McGowan’s assertions are “right,” is a general, meat-axe way, but they aren’t arguments. They are the ” this just is” pronouncements of someone who won’t countenance an argument, and, in most cases, isn’t capable of making one. That’s Black Lives Matter. That’s “the resistance.” That’s Maxine Waters and MSNBC….

Glenn took off from there in his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Hypocrisy And Dishonesty Of The Democratic National Convention Apparently Made Rose McGowan’s Head Explode”…

Too right, and that list is so long the full one would require a bigger blog.

What interests me is how often we all engage in these kind of broad-brush arguments that reject any aspect of nuance. Some Democrats have, to varying degrees, addressed many or even all of the ends she thinks are desirable. So have some Republicans.

The intractable problems of society cannot be solved by pronouncements, either of solutions or failures. That’s why they remain intractable. Black people most notably have refused to participate in extracting their “people” from poverty, crime, dependency and negative perceptions. “Brown” people is not a race or even a thing, and claiming they may be characterized in the same way as blacks renders the statement absurd. Each racial group has unique problems relating to their culture, their perception by our society, and their willingness to integrate into America.

I find it interesting that the Democrats completely ignore “yellow” people as if they never had the struggles of other minority populations — a risible idea that has infected the Democrat identity-politics groupthink. But the Asians have shown how to fight all the problems blacks and some other races have suffered through for generations — by willingly assimilating into America.

The fact that black people haven’t embraced this idea despite living here longer than Asians is a big part of why so little progress has been made. Now, blacks want new, government-enforced segregation policies created to further alienate them from America. Can there be any doubt as to how this new demand will work out if implemented?

“Police brutality?” The vast majority of police are professionals and behave that way. But to Rose, who has only a proverbial hammer, there are nothing but nails in blue. Continue reading

The Hypocrisy And Dishonesty Of The Democratic National Convention Apparently Made Rose McGowan’s Head Explode

McGowan is a former Hollywood “scream queen” (one of my personal favorites, with her entertaining turn in “Scream” and her unforgettable “babe with a an automatic rifle for an artificial leg” performance in “Grindhouse” ) turned fearless #MeToo activist. She one of Harvey Weinstein’s victims, and has earned a reputation for calling out hypocrites within that movement in merciless terms, notably  her former “Charmed” cast mate and current fellow Twitter auteur, Alyssa Milano.

It was to be expected that the odious dishonesty of  the virtual Democratic National Convention just completed would provoke her, and, sure enough, it did.

In her now familiar take-no-prisoners style, McGowran tweeted:

Observations: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Apparitions, 8/16/2020: Triceratops? What Triceratops? What IS A Triceratops?

1. From the Ethics Alarms cultural literacy files. I remember this re- tweet by acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates from 2015; I can’t believe I didn’t post on it then. (Pointer to Ann Althouse for reminding me of it today):

Now,  I would like to believe that Oates was joking (I’m not sure about Tilley), but she is not known for madcap humor. Apparently “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg  and popular culture are beneath her, and she was so focused on literature in school that dinosaurs completely missed her attention. I regard this as being estranged from one’s culture, and I regard that as irresponsible.

2. Question: If Twitter is taking down tweets involving hate speech, why is unequivocal hate like this permitted? Robert Trump, the President’s younger brother, died yesterday. The President wrote,

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

Yet the hateful, vicious “resistance” couldn’t rise to a moment of bipartisan decency. The hashtag #wrongtrump, is the second highest trending on Twitter, with more than 80,000  tweets last I checked. Among the the ghouls were journalist David Leavitt., ” who tweeted, “What did he promise the devil for the Grim Reaper to take the #wrongtrump ???” (5.7 thousand people “loved” the sentiment), and Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield, Massachusetts, branch of the NAACP (and a pastor, which will perhaps help illuminate my attitudes toward organized religion), who wrote “Dear Grim Reaper, You took the #wrongtrump.” That one got 10,000 hearts.

These are mean, bad people with dead ethics alarms. Continue reading

Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!

1. Gaslighting! Seth Abramson is an American professor, attorney, author, and political columnist whom I have been mercifully unaware of previously. In response to last night’s inspiring speech by the President (inspiring unless you’re in favor of gutting U.S. culture and rights), he tweeted,

Someone please explain to Seth that if you don’t pay better attention than that to what’s going on, you are ethically obligated to shut the hell up.

2. I have to mention this because it’s embarrasses Harvard. Claira Janover, who graduated in May from the once-respectable university with a degree in government and psychology, saw a  short clip she posted on Tik Tok where she threatened to stab anyone who had  “the nerve, the sheer entitled caucasity to say ‘all lives matter'” go viral.

“I’ma stab you,” the Connecticut native says on the clip, zooming in close on her face. “I’ma stab you, and while you’re struggling and bleeding out, I’ma show you my paper cut and say, ‘My cut matters too,’” she added.

Oh, I get it! She’s making an analogy between someone saying “All Lives Matter” as a retort to “Black Lives Matter,” saying killing non-black people isn’t an issue because black people being killed is to white people being killed  like a stabbing is to a paper cut! Or something like that. It’s not a very good analogy. No, it wasn’t a “a true threat,” either. It was just an ugly and obnoxious video that signaled that she is irresponsible and intolerant of other points of view. This impugned the judgment of her new employers, the international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, and they canned her. Of course they did. She should have known that would happen.

I would have fired her just for saying “Ima stab you.” Corporations don’t tend to pay huge fees to people who say, “Ima” anything.

Rather than being accountable, Janover has decided to play the victim, claiming Trump supporters are at fault for her fate, and attacking her ex-employer.

“I’m sorry, Deloitte, that you can’t see, ” she said, “that you were cowardice [sic] enough to fight somebody who’s going to make an indelible change in the world and is going to have an impact.” If she keeps this up, she may successfully ensure that nobody hires her, and though she will no doubt claim otherwise, it will have nothing to do with racism.

Good job, Harvard! Continue reading

Washington Post Editor Karen Attiah, The Human Smoking Gun

The above tweet was posted two days ago by Karen Attiah, the Washington Post  global opinions editor. After it was immediately and legitimately attacked for what it was—yes, this is res ipsa loquitur— she took it down, but not before her position had been captured in hundreds of screenshots like the one above. Later she tweeted, “Non, je ne regrette rien,” French for “No, I do not regret anything.” (Apparently Attiah believes the foes of unethical journalism are too primitive and uneducated to understand French, or too dim to use an online translator.)

The Washington Post should have given her reason to regret, but it hasn’t, and unless its readers and media critics force the paper to act, it won’t. Since the deleted tweet, the Post has refused to comment on its editor’s outburst, and other than her snotty Gallic tweet of defiance, so has Attiah. Continue reading

The New McCarthyism Of The Left And The Destruction Of Hartley Sawyer

Hartley Sawyer is, or was, a Hollywood actor. 35 years old with many credits, he had hit the big time, and big money, with a regular role on the CW series “The Flash.” He played the superhero “The Elongated Man.” Today he’s unemployed, and likely to remain so. He was fired from the series yesterday.

Was he hard to work with? No. Did he harass cast members? No.  Did he come to the set drunk, or masturbate in front of  female crew members, or attack a writer, like Thomas Gibson did on “Criminal Minds”?  No, no and no. Sawyer wasn’t fired for doing anything illegal, disruptive or even recent. He was fired because someone searched his social media record, and released tweets he made between 2009 and 2014. All the stories about his firing reference “racist tweets,” but the only ones published have been…

  •  “The only thing keeping me from doing mildly racist tweets is the knowledge that Al Sharpton would never stop complaining about me.”
  • “Enjoyed a secret boob viewing at an audition today.”
  • “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”

The first isn’t racist, or even legitimately offensive. To claim the second would be taboo in Hollywood is so ridiculous it boggles the mind. The third, described in various accounts as being about sexual assault, is an obvious joke. Saying you “date rape” yourself is not advocating sexual assault.

Never mind. In the crazed grip of George Floyd mania, people with empty lives and cruel dispositions are itching to show their power to destroy others by crying “Witch!,” knowing that most of those in authority, any authority, lack backbone, integrity or a working knowledge of the Golden Rule. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Week: Prof. Carl Bergstrom

One could also call this an ethical tweet, as it neatly unmasks the hypocrisy of the scientific community as well as the self-serving myth that scientists are squeaky-clean objective and do not bend their pronouncements to partisan and political motives.

Bergstrom is a science star. Atheoretical and evolutionary biologist and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, he has been a vocal critic of low-quality or misleading scientific research. Now he is proving how we get it.

In another tweet, he writes, “We are having difficult but vital conversations about whether public health professionals can support the #BlackLivesMatter.protests during a pandemic. I’m unhappy to see these defaulting to utilitarian calculus rather than considering deontological or virtue ethics perspectives.”

That one’s pretty funny. The reason policy-makers are told that they must follow in lockstep the pronouncements of “experts” is that scientists et al. are not calibrating facts, recommendation and conclusions based on biases, personal preferences and non-factual considerations. In fact, that is the very reason policy makers must make the trade-offs scientists cannot, or should not. Now, struggling to find a way out of the obvious verdict of hypocrisy, Bergstrom is extolling “virtue ethics.” The problem is that virtue ethics also requires balancing and prioritizing among the virtues. Now we know that Bergstrom, among others, calibrates his recommendations according to his own political and ideological preferences. Go to work to continue earning income and care for one’s family? Not important enough to justify the risk. Gather in church to serve one’s spiritual needs? Nope. Attend a funeral of a loved one to express grief and respect? Not worth the risk. Protest being forced to accept an economic Armageddon and the suspension of civil rights to prevent virus-triggered fatalities that have been tolerated in the past without installing such draconian measures? Selfish and irresponsible.

Mass demonstrations in the streets out of anger and opportunistic political motivations, leading to millions of dollars of property destruction, human misery, deaths of bystanders and police, looting and riots in furtherance of vague objectives and generalities?

Sure! Now that’s worth it! Continue reading

Fortunately, The Ethics Argument Regarding The Riots Is A Slam Dunk. Unfortunately, An Astounding Number Of People Don’t Care Enough About Ethics To Acknowledge This.

Olivia Gatwood, the woman who wrote that provocative tweet, is a Los Angeles feminist poet who, presumably, has never heard of the Golden Rule, nor any other ethical system. Yet her analysis is hardly an outlier. In fact, it is a fair summary of the ethical basis of anyone’s position who accepts, excuses, or “understands” the behavior of the George Floyd insurrectionists. They don’t even have the old, perverted utilitarianism stand-by, “the ends justify the means” to claim as justification. What ends? As I am sure I have noted too many times here already, they have no serious or practical answer to the 13th Question: “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?” I think it is fair to say that if the enablers of the rioters had a legitimate answer to that question, or indeed if they had even given it serious thought, we would have heard or read it by now. “End racism!” isn’t an answer. Neither is “End white supremacy (as we choose to describe it to bootstrap our political objectives.” Nor is “End over-incarceration without addressing the disproportionate criminal activity that creates it.”

Thus all the injuries, deaths, property damage and social division accomplish nothing, except emotional release. Emotional release is not an ethical objective—not at these prices.

Let’s  look at the just the attacks on police and law enforcement and the injuries they caused; this is the “fuck police” section of Gatwood’s exhortation.  Listing property damage in detail is too complicated. The list below comes from Fox News; you wouldn’t expect any other news source to compile such a list, would you? It’s also two days old, so you can assume a current list would be even worse. Continue reading