Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2020: Zugswang!

Good morning, inmates!

I’ve been reading that social isolation may be deadly. Zugswang!

Last week “ethics zugswangmade a return to Ethics Alarms, and you can expect to read a lot more of it. The chess term describing the dilemma is which the only safe move is to stay still, and staying still is impossible, seems to be applying to increasing numbers of dire situations recently, especially in the ethical sense, in which all choices are unethical.Upon reflection, several posts involved ethics zugswang even when I didn’t use that term. The woman whose student loan debts topped 900,000 dollars is in zugswang. Progressive feminists who use gender-baiting as a partisan weapon are in self-condemned zugswang when political allies use misogynist terms against conservative women.

It’s really fun saying “zugswang,” but I will try to touch on some matters that don’t involve ethics zugswang….like…

1. “Hogan’s Heroes” ethics. I never thought it would happen, but a cable channel is re-running “Hogan’s Heroes” episodes. The very popular Sixties sitcom about POW prison camp and the wacky and inept Nazis running it has been thoroughly excoriated as outrageously tasteless and politically incorrect. My father loved the show because anything that made the Nazis look ridiculous was aces with him. Is it tasteless and offensive to show “Hogan’s Heroes” today?

It was clearly satire, in the same spirit as Larry, Moe and Curly playing Hitler and cronies, or Charley Chaplin in “The Great Dictator”—or, to pick a recent example, the child’s view of Hitler as an imaginary friend in “Jo-Jo Rabbit.” The show obviously took its inspiration from “The Great Escape,” of which it is virtually a parody (without the executions, of course.) WW II vets like my father were accustomed to the Nazis being ridiculed and trivialized in the process. In an age that has seen the Holocaust Museum’s exhibits and widely distributed documentaries about the full barbarity of Nazi Germany, the satire may no longer work.

There are other reasons why “Hogan’s Heroes” is no longer funny, despite the very talented cast. Its laugh track is annoying now, especially when the jokes are old and repetitive: how hard can you keep laughing when Sgt. Schultz (John Banner) says “I know nothing! NOTHING!” for the thousandth time? Perhaps the kiss of death for the series is the ubiquity of series star Bob Crane as Hogan, Crane was always smarmy for my taste, but knowing his fate—Crane was bludgeoned to death by a likely participant in his sick S & M porno ring that involved, among other revolting activities,  secretly videotaping women engaged in sex—make watching the show a painful experience. Continue reading

Selective Censorship, Manipulation, Spin And Omissions By The News Media And Social Media: You Know It Will Only Get Worse

1.  Twitter has expanded its “hate speech” prohibitions, and not, I assume, for the last time.

Twitter announced that it has expanded its “hate speech’ policies to include tweets that make “dehumanizing remarks,” defined as remarks that treat “others as less than human,” on the basis of age, disability, or disease. These additions further enlarge on the company’s polices made last July that said Twitter would remove tweets that dehumanize religious groups. Before that, in 2018 , Twitter issued a broad ban on “dehumanizing speech” to compliment its existing hate speech policies that cover protected classes like race and gender.

This is the nose of a very dangerous camel entering the metaphorical tent. As always, the problem with “hate speech” prohibitions is that the “hate” is always  matter of subjective judgment. Censorship of any kind constrains expression, and as we head into a political campaign,  Twitter’s creeping policing of words and metaphors is ominous. You cannot trust these people to be even-handed, to make close calls, or to avoid acting on bias.

2. The threat is made worse because social media platforms allow both parties to “work the umpire,” encouraging  them to demand that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook take down tweets and posts that one or the other doesn’t like. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

Wasted Day Evening Ethics, 2/10/2020: As Your Host Tries To Salvage Some Productivity In A Messed Up Monday [CORRECTED]

I don’t want to talk about it.

1. Is it ethical to point out that the candidate my desperate progressive friends are trying to justify supporting in the arid Democratic field is really a jerk? Sure it is! In a deft call that I missed, Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson found yet another striking example of Pete Buttigieg’s hypocrisy. He writes,

For much of the presidential campaign, Pete Buttigieg has championed the importance of the popular vote. In a town hall nearly a year ago, Buttigieg proclaimed: “One thing I believe is that in an American presidential election, the person who gets the most votes ought to be the person who wins.”

Yet after the Iowa caucuses, where Bernie Sanders clearly got thousands  more votes, Buttigieg has been trumpeting victory — on the basis of a metric that can subvert the popular vote, the state delegate haul from Iowa’s equivalent of the electoral college.

To be plain, the actual tally in Iowa seems to matter less to the Buttigieg campaign than building a perception of victory. On the night of the caucuses, long before any of the official tally had been reported, Buttigieg dubiously declared he had won..the Iowa Democratic Party has now released 100 percent of the state results. The current tally shows Buttigieg trailing Sanders by 2,631 votes, yet leading by 2 “state delegate equivalents” — a margin of 0.1 percent on that metric. Yet the official tally includes many documented and uncorrected errors and what the state party deems “inconsistencies in data.” The Associated Press has refused to call the election, and Democratic party chair Tom Perez has demanded a “recanvass” or recount. Despite the tenuousness of these results, the Buttigieg website now proclaims: “It’s official: Pete won the Iowa Caucuses!”.

President Trump’s election, however, was illegitimate. Continue reading

“What? That Horrible Nancy Pelosi Kept Ripping Up The President’s Speech Again And Again?”

The video above was released by the Trump campaign, and tweeted out by the President. It made effective, if predictable, use of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s inexcusable stunt of symbolically ripping up the President’s State of the Union text at the conclusion of his address.

Immediately upon the ad’s release, the Speaker’s office demanded that Twitter and Facebook take it down. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted, “The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests.” But a Facebook spokesman replied on Twitter, “Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?”

Hammill indignantly responded,  “What planet are you living on? This is deceptively altered. Take it down.” Facebook would not.  “I can confirm for you that the video doesn’t violate our policies,” said representative Andy Stone, pointing out that what Facebook called “unacceptable altered video” were those edited to make it appear that a person said something they didn’t say, or did something they didn’t do.

Ugh. The video was edited to make it appear ( though not fooling anyone with an IQ above freezing) that Pelosi ripped up the speech while the President’s various human interest salutes were unfolding. That’s something she didn’t do. Continue reading

It’s A Super-Political Day, With Iowa, The STU, And The Impeachment Wrapping Up, So I Will Forgive Myself For Yet Another Politics-Related Post…

A. Let this be a reminder that the social media giants will try to place their fists on the scale this election cycle.

The political spot above, a creation of the Republican group America Rising, was flagged by Twitter, which warned users that   “The following media includes potentially sensitive content.”

What’s the sensitive content? The video is overwhelmingly constructed of news clips and recorded quotes from political figures, including the President, that were broadcast nationwide.   It appears that Twitter considers pro-Trump, Republican, conservative advocacy, even of a res ipsa loquitur variety, inherently offensive to its audience. That may well be true, but the Russian attempts to manipulate what voters see and here in the 2016 campaign will be  dwarfed by the domestic efforts by the social media platforms and search engines—all for the greater good, of course.

B. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Go ahead, enablers and deniers, rationalize  this one. Continue reading

In The Twitterverse, Like Bizarro World, Right Is Wrong And Wrong Is Right, As The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along

This would have made my head explode, except that nothing involving Twitter can make my head explode any more. This is, however, a troubling indication that the United States may be turning into Bizarro World, where right is wrong, wrong is right, smart is stupid, and stupid is smart.  (The ascent of Bernie Sanders is another indication.)

Behold:

Quarterback Patrck Mahomes of the Super Bowl LIV -bound Kansas City Chiefs was attacked by the Twitter mob this week because of a series of tweets he sent when he was in high school.

Ethics Fouls #1 and #2: This is the Hader Gotcha again, described here. Some utter jerk, presumably a  fan of the pro sport a friend accurately disdains as “concussionball”—that’s unethical too, but I’m leaving that alone for now– decided to see if he could make trouble for Mahomes  ahead of the Chief’s AFC Championship game on Jan.-uary 19 by searching his Twitter feed for tweets that might spark his “cancellation.” That’s a hateful and unfair act (Ethics Foul #1 ) with a nauseating Brett Kavanaugh hearings odor.  Then, because jerkism is spreading in the U.S. faster than the Coronavirus in China, people actually attacked the quarterback online when the selected old tweets surfaced, as if what a 16  year old expressed in a tweet had any relevance to who that kid grew up to be, or football, or the Super Bowl. (Ethics Foul #2.)

Ethics Fouls #3, #4 and #5  And what were offending tweets?