Tag: terrorism

Bioethics Blogs

Things Which Have Once Been Conjoined: Science Fiction, Contagion, and Magic in the Age of Social Media by Samuel Gerald Collins

There are many interesting formations that might be called networked phenomena. Homophily and the tendency towards triad closure. Scott Feld’s Rule (I’m more likely to make friends with someone who has more friends than me). Small world phenomena (those 6 degrees of separation). “The Strength of Weak Ties” (reportedly the most cited sociology paper in history). In all, a series of social forms that complicates typical binarisms like individual versus group.

All of these have their positive and negative sides, but few networked phenomena have been met with more ambivalence than that of contagion, the idea that things (memes, viral videos, fashion) spread from person to person in a way that is similar to an epidemic; that is, people believe certain things or participate in certain behaviors without necessarily having “decided” to do so. Instead, the chances of “contracting” an idea, a fashion, or a new technology come down to the structural position in a network—a question, for example, of k-threshold models, where the chance of contagion depends upon the topology of connections vis-à-vis other infected nodes.

Given its identification with epidemiological contagion, it is not surprising that social contagion brings with it a negative valence, conjuring up fears of loss of autonomy, of being reduced to “hosts” for the “viral” propagation of information in a network. Contagion is at the heart of the fear and fascination of the zombie. It is also part of the latest panic in politics, one that centers on a vision of an electorate easily manipulated through fake news propagated through social media.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Specter of Authoritarianism

by Andrew J. Pierce

ABSTRACT. In this essay, I provide an analysis of the much-discussed authoritarian aspects of Donald Trump’s campaign and early administration. Drawing from both philosophical analyses of authoritarianism and recent work in social science, I focus on three elements of authoritarianism in particular: the authoritarian predispositions of Trump supporters, the scapegoating of racial minorities as a means of redirecting economic anxiety, and the administration’s strategic use of misinformation. While I offer no ultimate prediction as to whether a Trump administration will collapse into authoritarianism, I do identify key developments that would represent moves in that direction.

The unorthodox campaign and unexpected election of Donald Trump has ignited intense speculation about the possibility of an authoritarian turn in American politics. In some ways, this is not surprising. The divisive political climate in the United States is fertile soil for the demonization of political opponents. George W. Bush was regularly characterized as an authoritarian by his left opposition, as was Barack Obama by his own detractors. Yet in Trump’s case, echoes of earlier forms of authoritarianism, from his xenophobic brand of nationalism and reliance on a near mythological revisionist history, to his vilification of the press and seemingly strategic use of falsehoods, appear too numerous to ignore. In this essay, I attempt to provide a sober evaluation of the authoritarian prospects of a Trump administration. As presidential agendas inevitably differ from campaign platforms, much of this analysis will be unavoidably speculative. However, the nature of Trump’s carefully studied campaign, the early actions of his administration, and the wealth of philosophical reflections on earlier forms of authoritarianism provide ample resources to inform such speculation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

GBI Summer School on Global Bioethics, Human Rights and Public Policy

GBI Summer School on Global Bioethics, Human Rights and Public Policy –  Our First Educational Field Trips

by Anaeke Paschal Chinonye

I am a Ph.D. in Philosophy, at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. I am the winner of a partial scholarship which gave me the possibility to attend this unique and very interesting program hosted by GBI.

Friday, June, 23, was a day for field trips. First to the United Nations Headquarters and then to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. Initially, I thought field trips would be mere social outings and sightseeing with opportunities to take a lot of pictures. The trips proved far more than that; it was rather educational trips loaded with significance. As I got to the main entrance, some basic facts about the UN which I learnt during my Master of International Law and Diplomacy class in the University of Lagos, Nigeria began to flash in my mind. Chiefly, a commitment to international peace and security.

One of my colleagues called me across the road to take pictures, immediately I crossed the road, my eyes went straight to an inscription from the Prophet Isaiah: They shall beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no longer lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore. At this point, though the world is still ravaged by wars, terrorism, and insecurity, I felt the UN has a divine mandate which thus must be commended and supported.

Now, after the security check, as I walked into the compound, still lost in wondering contemplation of the critical need for global peace and security, I spotted the statue of a gun with a tied barrel…signaling no more wars.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Psychologists Open a Window on Brutal C.I.A. Interrogations

June 21, 2017

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Fifteen years after he helped devise the brutal interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects in secret C.I.A. prisons, John Bruce Jessen, a former military psychologist, expressed ambivalence about the program.

He described himself and a fellow military psychologist, James Mitchell, as reluctant participants in using the techniques, some of which are widely viewed as torture, but also justified the practices as effective in getting resistant detainees to cooperate.

“I think any normal, conscionable man would have to consider carefully doing something like this,” Dr. Jessen said in a newly disclosed deposition. “I deliberated with great, soulful torment about this, and obviously I concluded that it could be done safely or I wouldn’t have done it.”

… Read More

Image: By Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy – (copied from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Camp_x-ray_detainees.jpg so that the image can be used on Wikinews.), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=774059

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Terrorism and triage

Imagine that you are a doctor responding to an emergency in Israel. A terrorist has attacked people in a shopping mall with a knife, stabbing some old women and children. A policeman has shot and seriously wounded the terrorist. Whom should you treat first?

This is a classical triage situation in which the worst are to be treated first. The conventional view is that doctors must be “colour-blind” in treating victims. If the terrorist is the worst injured, he should be treated first.

In an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, two Israeli doctors question this. Value-neutrality can lead to injustice, they contend, even if “ the virtuous euphoria that accompanies the subjective neutrality-maintenance effort” seems ethically pure.

In any case, “value-neutrality” is a myth, they claim. Deciding which organ to treat is a neutral decision; deciding which person to treat always involves the invocation of values. In fact, a strict “no exceptions” rule could easily be “a manifestation of conservative stagnation, induced by fear of change, or even masked political-correctness.”

In their analysis they argue that on three counts, victims deserve to be treated first:

• “Terrorists do not deserve the right of higher priority in the terror-triage dilemma (retributive justice).

• “The higher societal merit of the victims makes them eligible for higher priority (distributive justice).

• “The terrorist, who intentionally caused the victims’ injury, should be of lower priority than the victims (corrective justice).

In a commentary on this controversial view, Michael Ardagh, of Christchurch Hospital, in New Zealand, disagreed with the Israelis’ analysis.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

POTUS and torture

It beggars belief that the leader of the free world and the world’s policeman, the President of the United States, thinks that torture is not a bad thing. On the campaign trail he insisted several times that torture works and that even if it didn’t “they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”

Now that he is in office, however, Mr Trump seems to be having a two-way bet. While personally in favour of waterboarding, he is deferring to the opinion of his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, a tough and experienced soldier, who says that it does not work. In this way, he keeps faith both with voters who want him to be tough on terrorism and voters who want him to rebuild the military.

So the upshot of this week’s confusing news about a draft executive order from the President permitting “enhanced interrogation” techniques is that no one really knows what he believes. But it is an ominous sign that Mr Trump’s moral compass is so weak that he resiles from repudiating torture, keeping it in reserve as a potential vote-winner. In a civilised society which respects human dignity, torture should be absolutely unthinkable.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – December 2016, Part II by Anna Zogas

Here is the second part of our article roundup for December (find the first set of articles here). Happy reading, and happy new year!

New Genetics and Society

Redrawing the boundary of medical expertise: medically assisted reproduction and the debate on Italian bioconstitutionalism
Volha Parfenchyk

In 2004, the Italian Parliament passed a controversial law on medically assisted reproduction (Law 40/2004). The Law obliged clinicians to create a maximum of three embryos during one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle and transfer them simultaneously into the patient’s uterus. With this “three embryo” standard, the Parliament sought to secure the realization of rights of IVF embryos. Drawing on the concepts of boundary-work and bioconstitutionalism, this article explores the role that the constitutional obligations of the Italian State towards its citizens, including IVF embryos as its new “citizen subjects,” played in how it envisaged and demarcated the professional boundaries of medical expertise. It argues that the latter depended upon how it balanced its commitments to protect the rights of IVF embryos and those of adult citizens. As such, the demarcation of the jurisdictional boundaries of medical expertise, and the definition of constitutional rights, formed two sides of the same governing project.

Traveling questions: uncertainty and nonknowledge as vehicles of translation in genetic research participation
Klaus Hoeyer

In this paper, I argue that uncertainty and nonknowledge, and not just research results, can be important vehicles of translation through which genetic research participation comes to affect the lives of research participants. Based on interviews with participants in a genetic research project, I outline epistemic, emotional, relational and moral implications of research participation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

"American Horror Story" in Real Life: Understanding Racialized Views of Mental Illness and Stigma

By Sunidhi Ramesh
Racial and ethnic discrimination has taken various forms in the
United States since its formation as a nation. The sign in the image
reads: “Deport all Iranians. Get the hell out of my country.”
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
From 245 years of slavery to indirect racism in police sanctioning and force, minority belittlement has remained rampant in American society (1). There is no doubt that this history has left minorities in the United States with a differential understanding of what it means to be American and, more importantly, what it means to be an individual in a larger humankind.

Generally, our day-to-day experiences shape the values, beliefs, and attitudes that allow us to navigate the real world (2). And so, with regards to minorities, consistent exposure to these subjective experiences (of belittlement and discrimination, for example) can begin to shape subjective perceptions that, in turn, can mold larger perspectives and viewpoints.

Last spring, I conducted a project for a class to address the reception (3) of white and non-white, or persons of color (POC), students to part of an episode from American Horror Story: Freak Show. The video I asked them to watch portrays a mentally incapacitated woman, Pepper, who is wrongfully framed for the murder of her sister’s child. The character’s blatant scapegoating is shocking not only for the lack of humanity it portrays but also for the reality of being a human being in society while not being viewed as human.
Although the episode remains to be somewhat of an exaggeration, the opinions of the interview respondents in my project ultimately suggested that there exists a racial basis of perceiving the mental disabilities of Pepper—a racial basis that may indeed be deeply rooted in the racial history of the United States.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Healing, Hate, and Solidarity

By Duncan Maru

“Non-violence is the highest spirituality”  Mahavir, Jain Spiritual Leader

“Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love.”  St. Francis of Assisi

As a physician, it is my calling to heal. Healing goes far deeper than knowing the right science and prescribing the right medication.  It involves a deep and uncompromising feeling of compassion and love towards our patients.

How might a clinician think about the results of last week? President-elect Trump rose to power with a rhetoric of hate, division, and otherness.  Our country suffers deep income inequality and lack of opportunity. Our citizens suffer from the concentration of power and wealth and the resulting lack of education and opportunity.  Mr. Trump understood people’s anger and channeled it towards hate.  Yet hate is incapable of solving problems.  Believing this election was a referendum on America overcoming hate and fear, my family and I had supported and campaigned for Secretary Clinton…

The results engendered in me deep personal loss and disappointment.  Fear and hate had seemingly won. We would not elect America’s first woman president in time to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Ammendment in 2020.  Whatever his faults on foreign and domestic policy, we would sorely miss President Obama’s grace, his family values, his convictions rooted in spirituality, his commitment to science and rationality, and his ability to provide calm, firm, and compassionate solace in times of national tragedy and uncertainty.  In my heart, I had come to have feelings of hatred towards Mr.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Kuwait to Change Law Forcing All Citizens to Provide DNA Samples

October 21, 2016

(New Scientist) – Kuwait plans to scale down, and may ultimately revoke, a law forcing all its citizens and visitors to provide samples of their DNA. Reportedly introduced as a measure to combat terrorism, it is the first law of its kind worldwide, and has been criticised for being unconstitutional, undermining privacy rights and as being unlikely to prevent terrorist attacks.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.