Monday Ethics Overture, 2/8/21: I’m Crankier Than Usual Today

I was going to post a poll asking how many readers had watched the “Concussion Bowl.” Last night, right after the game commenced, I went to the local Harris Teeter was one of three customers in the whole store. I’m pretty sure everyone else wasn’t reading Ethics Alarms. I’m curious how many have the requisite integrity and cultural responsibility to reject the showcase of the NFL and its corporate enablers in light of pro football’s continuing profit from inducing brain damage and its nauseating pandering to Black Lives Matter.

But I couldn’t post the poll. Once again, WordPress had changed the ground rules. Now I was informed that I had exceeded my quota of “signals” in the previous polls posted here, and would have to pay a monthly fee to add any more. I had to explain to a nice WordPress agent I “chatted” with online what a “bait and switch” was. “Polls” used to be right on my “dashboard” like every other WordPress feature. No limits were mentioned, until today, when I was told, in essence, “Glad you like our polls, now you have to pay to keep using them.”

It’s not a lot of money, but the nickels and dimes add up. I wrote WordPress explaining that their conduct was unethical, and got an admission that “we should have been clearer.” That’s what all con artists and swindlers say.

1. If starting your day off with a head explosion is your thing, read this LA Times Op-Ed. I won’t comment on it because once I start, I might never stop. Just discussing the Orwellian use of the term “responsible” might take 5000 words. This is why I barely interact with anyone on Facebook now. When someone speaks like this deranged fool, and many do, revealing a distorted view of reality the equivalent of doing LSD in Oz and a comprehension of the Constitution on par with AOC’s, arguing with them is like debating Caligula or a toddler. Sure, it’s a breeze winning on points, but where does it get you?

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Oh-oh: WordPress Deplatforms The Conservative Treehouse Blog

dead canary

I don’t understand this development at all. Perhaps I should say that I hope I don’t understand it. The move feels like another canary dying in the Free Speech mine.

A week after the 2020 Presidential election, The Conservative Treehouse received this from WordPress, which, as you know, hosts Ethics Alarms:

…”given the incompatibility between your site’s content and our terms, you need to find a new hosting provider and must migrate the site by Wednesday, December 2nd.

What’s going on here? This is the blog’s interpretation :

It means CTH is being kicked-off the WordPress website hosting platform because the content of our research and discussion does not align with the ideology of those who define what is acceptable speech and what is not.

What was our violation?  After ten years of brutally honest discussion, opinion, deep research and crowdsourcing work -with undeniable citations on the events we outline- there is no cited violation of any term of service because CTH has never violated one.

The WordPress company is not explaining the reason for deplatforming because there is no justifiable reason for it.  At the same time, they are bold in their position. Perhaps this is the most alarming part; and everyone should pay attention. They don’t care.

Truthful assembly is now the risk.  CTH is now too big; with a site reach of 500,000 to a million unique readers each day; and with well over 200,000 subscribers; our assembly is too large, too influential, and presents a risk… we guard the flickering flame.

The Conservative Treehouse is a professionally operated blog. I don’t visit it often; the tone is too ideologically rigid for me, and the lionizing of the late Andrew Breitbart, who proudly engaged in unethical journalism, signals to me that ethics is not high on the blog’s priority of values.

However, unless there is something more behind this event, it is ominous.

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Comment Of The Day: “WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them”

User unfriendly

I just had another run-in with WordPress over its “improved” system that makes me want to get hair plugs so I can tear my hair out, so this Comment of The Day by first time commenter Null Pointer is timely. This time, I was asking why I could no longer embed a CrowdSignal poll with a few clicks, and was forced to use the default WordPress poll feature which prevents a voter from checking the polling results without voting repeatedly. “Oh, it’s easy!” I was told by the cheery customer service agent. First, I have to register on the CrowdSignal site, and set up an account, and..and ..and…

I cut off the chat after writing that apparently WordPress doesn’t comprehend that my time is valuable, and that adding multiple steps, not to mention the need for constant assistance deciphering inadequate instructions and explanations, to accomplish what was once quick and straightforward is neither an improvement nor appreciated.

Usually first-time comments who score Comments of the Day are single issue participants, and are never heard from again. I hope Null Pointer is an exception.

Here is his or her Comment of the Day on the post, WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them:

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WordPress Is Unethical, But It’s Not Just Them

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the American mania for complicating processes and systems that are just fine as they are is a cultural sickness. It is also obviously unethical under the category of irresponsibility, with a dash of arrogance. It is an American mania.

Herman Kahn used to tell the story about how American jet fighters were equipped with multi-million dollar systems to prevent the aircraft from stalling, triggering alarms and lights and other automated reactions. “The Soviet equivalent was a little dial that had an arrow that went into a red zone,” he said,”and the whole system costs about five bucks. It works just as well as ours.”

Right now, I am struggling to write blog posts because the WordPress “upgrade” has become mandatory, and the thing is infuriatingly complicated and clumsy. Naturally, the company’s “explanation” of how to use it is also incompetent, using terms without defining them, telling me how easy and versatile the new system is while ensuring that it is neither by inflicting instructions that will take me hours and hours to absorb and master, if I ever can.

In one of many recent online chats with WordPress customer service agents, I was asking how I could stop having to repeatedly select the same “block” (this jargon means, I finally figured out, one of I-don’t-know-how-many shiny new packages of composition and format features a section of text could be managed with) I wanted to use, and just have a permanent, familiar formatting system for all posts, all the time—you know, like I used to have before WordPress gave me all these floating options I don’t want or need.

The answer? No! The new way was better, see, because I could shift into a new package mid post! But I don’t want or need to shift anything mid-post, and this “improvement” is costing me time and causing frustration. Frankly, it’s making me want to chuck the whole blog.

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The Ethics Alarms 2012 Summary, Since Hardly Anyone Is Reading Today Anyway…And Also, THANKS prepares an 2012 annual report for blogs using the service, and since it is obvious from the traffic today that New Years has officially begun, I thought I might as well make its report on what occurred at Ethics Alarms public this year.  I like WordPress, and this is also a good opportunity to thank them. Thanks.

Now please add an editing function for comments!

This isn’t part the Ethics Alarms Most Unethical and Most Ethical of 2012 posts; they will be along soon. Meanwhile, Ethics Alarms and its proprietor want to thank all those who kept the site growing, busy, lively, current, less typo-ridden (thanks, Jeff! ) and usually filled with intelligent, enlightening and civil, if occasionally too tough for some gentler tastes, discussion. Together we weathered web hoaxes, a national election, a plagiarizing lawyer, a couple of threatened law suits, a bitter American Idol contestant, an Instalanche, Penn State, George Zimmerman, ethics train wrecks galore, and nasty attacks from drug-legalization fans, bitter law grads, and mercifully few trolls, and still managed to keep the group ideologically diverse.

The site ends the year averaging about a thousand more visitors a day than it did 12 months ago, and for a blog on a topic most people think is as exciting as watching paint dry, I think that’s an accomplishement. I know this is difficult to believe, given my preference for stating my positions in the most assertive and uncompromising way possible, but one of the chief reasons I produce this blog is to explore new areas and ideas, to have my mind opened, my ideas challenged, and to learn. You have all done a wonderful job fulfilling those funtions, more than you know, and am obligated to all of you for it.

Thank you  Chase Martinez, tgt, Ampersand, Bill, Tom Fuller, Lorraine, Steven Mark Pilling, Michael Ejercito, Curmudgeon, Arthur in Maine, Tim LeVier, Jeff, Elizabeth, Crella, Walrus, Jan Chapman, Yardley, Windypundit, ethicssage, fattymoon, blameblakeart, Rick, Ethics Bob, Peter, Scherie, Jeff, Dave Gent, Interested Blogger, The Nance, gregory, Charles Green, Christine, Lianne Best, This Guy, Brian, Roger, Karla Marie Robinett, texagg04, Dwayne N. Zechman,49erDweet, Diego Garcia, Jolie, Jenna,Debbie Swartz, zoebrain, oldgraymary, Joshua, Jeremy Wiggins, Inquiring Mind, Sharon, Michael, Modern Knight, Fred Davison, Joe Fowler, Libby Torgerson, Mike Martin, celestialsquare, Proam, Karl, Martin Brooks Smith, Fred, Eeyoure, garlicfriesandbaseball, Rick, Michael R, Eric, and any of the cherished regulars here I have missed, for all the substantive content you contributed in 2012. Some of you have been AWOL for a while; I hope it wasn’t anything I wrote, and I hope to see you back in the fray in 2013. I know I was sometimes cranky, occasionally unfair, and uncivil at times. I can be careless, stubborn, mistaken, and outright wrong. And there are days when my brain takes a holiday. I’ll try to improve in 2013.

I’ll depend on you to make sure I do.

From here on, everything is WordPress.

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 830,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 15 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

The “Your Right To Engage in Ignorant and Dangerous Speech Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Unethical For Me To Help It Be As Loud As Possible” Dept.: ABC Full Circle and WordPress

Defending free speech doesn't mean you have to put dangerous speech where it will do the most 100 feet tall in Times Square.

As the New Year dawns, we see two companies in the communications business, and two situations raising the question, is it ethical or unethical to allow someone to use your product or service to broadcast harmful speech?

They took different paths, and both are being criticized. One company is ethical, the other is not.

The ethical company is WordPress.

A few days ago it took down one of its sites, Bare Naked Islam, after The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained that the site promoted violence against Muslims, which it surely did. When Muslims placed comments on the site, Bare Naked Islam published the IP and e-mail addresses of the commenters and suggested reprisals. Nonetheless, because it was CAIR’s complaint that triggered the removal, WordPress was criticized mightily in the conservative blogosphere for doing a Comedy Central—censoring legitimate free speech out of fear of Muslim violence. There is a very large distinction, however, between abandoning free speech in response to threats, as Comedy Central did in the infamous “South Park” incident, and responding responsibly to a legitimate complaint. Continue reading

Note to Ethics Alarms Readers: No More Ads! (And I’m Sorry It Took So Long For Me To Kill Them)

Dear Ethics Alarms Readers,

As discussed here last week, I only recently learned that WordPress has been planting ads in Ethics Alarms according to some mysterious formula. Whatever it is, the formula managed to keep me in the dark and deface my blog, giving some readers the impression that I had approved of, or profited from the ads. I never saw them, nor did WordPress ever give me notice what the ads were, how they were being placed, or that they were being run at all. Some of the ads, I learned, were for products that I find objectionable: for example, Barack Obama-mocking T-shirts in questionable taste.

Without checking to make sure, because it is pointless, I will stipulate that somewhere in the vast number of Conditions of Use provisions I must have agreed to at some point in time now lost to posterity, there must have been a statement in fine print giving WordPress permission to do all this. Had I read it, I would have probably agreed to it anyway, and would still be in the same position today, coming late to the realization that because I never saw ads on Ethics Alarms doesn’t mean some readers aren’t. I take full responsibility for this, and I apologize. I have a duty to you, just like WordPress has a duty to me. It should have kept me informed, particularly when their conduct affected the content of my website. It didn’t.

Anyway, I have paid the 30 bucks that buys me, and you, a year of ad-free content. If you see another ad on Ethics Alarms, please let me know. And There Will Be Blood.

Thank you for your patience, passion, loyalty and understanding. In the year since Ethics Alarms began, we have begun to build a diverse community of readers who constantly surprise, challenge, amuse and enlighten me with its insight and opinion on ethics and related matters. I know I don’t express my appreciation to all of you frequently enough; I will try to do better.


Jack Marshall

WordPress Ethics, Or How Offensive Obama T-Shirt Ads Ended Up On My Blog

WordPress supplies a versatile and useful product that is user-friendly (if I can manage it, believe me, it is user-friendly), inexpensive, and well-serviced. It also seems to be diligent about supplying regular information, which is especially important to me. So many companies, and especially the government, regularly surprise me with unpleasant, disrupting, or costly changes in what they provide that I only learn about by accident, or when they start causing me trouble.

A few months back, for example, Direct TV gave me no-charge charge access to HBO, just a couple of months after I had canceled it. There was no notice about this, and as a result, we didn’t watch the network at all for some time, since we didn’t know we were receiving the signal. It was puzzling that the access to HBO just appeared, and when it had hung around a few months, I decided to look at the bill, which we paid automatically. Now, I discovered, we were being charged for HBO, which I had just canceled.

When I called Direct TV, the representative apologized, took off the charge, credited me with a past months charge before I had realized what had happened, and removed HBO. He also gave me a long explanation about why this had happened, which boils down to this: when your service is interrupted (as it was several months ago; I was late with a bill payment), it is my responsibility to tell Direct TV what channels I was getting before the interruption, or it might just slip in premium channels without telling me when it reconnects my service. Is this written anywhere? No, it isn’t.

I no longer trust Direct TV.

I don’t trust the Transportation Security Administration, either. Last week, in the middle of a trip that involved several flights, I set off the gate alarm, as is my custom (I have a metal hip), and prepared for the ceremonial wanding. But this time, it wasn’t a wanding; oh no no no! It was a bona fide, full-body, rough massage feel-up that included a sprightly hello to my throat, rear-end, and naughty bits. In many cities, such stimulation would have cost me a pretty penny, though only if it were not performed by a large, heavy, middle-aged guy named Carl, as mine was. Yes, in rapid response to the underwear bomber, whose attempted act of terrorism was more than a year ago, TSA has now instituted new pat-down procedures designed to determine, among other things, what’s in your BVDs. There was no advance notice of this to flyers, of course, until I was actually at the feel-up point of no return, having made my meeting schedule and bought my non-refundable ticket. In fact, the new procedures had been instituted mid-day, after I had taken a flight including the usual game of Wand Me.

Now, back on the ground, I learn that some readers of my WordPress blog see a string of Google Ads in the text, ads triggered by key words and automatically generated. Continue reading