Or maybe not…
[Part I is here]
Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, Cineplex, Bow Tie Cinemas, Carmike and AMC Theatres will not show “The Interview” because the North Korea-based hackers that breached Sony Pictures Entertainment e-mail security threatened movie theaters and moviegoers who attend screenings of the satire. More theater circuits are expected to follow, because terrorism works especially well against weenies.
Leading the way for this disgusting weenieism display were first, Sony itself, which reportedly toned down the film in response to earlier threats from the group, and then the stars of the comedy, James Franco and Seth Rogan. They both cancelled all their publicity appearances and are evidently hiding under their beds, caving to the dictates of unknown critics who are almost certainly not in the country. Oooh, but they’re so scary!
First they stole emails from Sony executives to retaliate for the comedy’s story line, which involves an assassination attempt on the life of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un by two morons. Then the group issued a warning referencing 9-11 and warning Americans, to stay away from theaters showing “The Interview”:
“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY.”
Or “All your base are belong to us.“
On December 7, 1914, as the horrible, pointless, world-disrupting “War to End All Wars” was only five months old, Pope Benedict XV suggested a truce for the celebration of Christmas. The governments of the battling nations rejected the idea, but in the days leading up to Christmas and after, many of the soldiers in the trenches of this ugly conflict took the Pope’s advice.
On December 20, Germans soldiers in some areas took in British wounded from the no man’s land between the warring armies. A German soldier reported on December 22 that both sides had been heard singing Christmas Carols in the trenches. German troops arriving into the lines had begun bringing Christmas trees, and some men placed them on the parapets of the fire trenches. Then, on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops serenaded each other across the lines. Allied soldiers reported that sometimes their singing was accompanied by German brass bands. Then, Christmas Day, 1914, some of the German soldiers left their trenches and carefully approached Allied lines, shouting“Merry Christmas” in French and English. Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches, and shook hands with the men who had only recently been trying to kill them. Some even exchanged exchanged gifts of cigarettes and and food. There were even instances where soldiers from opposing sides played soccer: in England, one organization is holding a match next week against a German team to commemorate such contests. Continue reading
Cultural events earlier this month brought to light, on two continents, the problem of maintaining the integrity of art and literature under the onslaught of political correctness.
In Sweden, a controversy has erupted over the re-broadcast of a 1969 television adaptation of the Pippi Longstocking books, the children’s classics authored by Astrid Lindgren. The Swedish national TV station, SVT, announced that it is revising a scene from the 1969 television series about Pippi which she says her father is “king of the Negroes,”a direct quote from one of the stories. Believe it or not, this has set off a contentious national debate.
The family has approved the station’s desire to change the TV version, but is keeping the term in future editions of the books. In 2006, the family added a preface explaining that today, the word is considered “offensive,” but that when the books first appeared, “Negro was a common expression for people with black skin who lived in other parts of the world than ours.” That’s a sensible solution. Period and context is important in art and literature: the urge by some to constantly purge the world of any reference, word or attitude in past creations that seem out of place now leads to a form of cultural self-lobotomy. Erik Helmerson, a columnist at Dagens Nyheter, an influential Stockholm newspaper, called the changes a form of censorship. “I’m very sensitive to the fact that people are offended by the N word,” he said in an interview. “I’d never use it myself.” He even called revising the TV series “a huge interference into freedom of speech.” “Where do we draw the line? What do we cut and what do we keep? Who should decide? Who needs to be offended before we cut a word?” Continue reading
My guess: Paul tastes like chicken…
When we left naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie, we were told that he journeyed to the Amazon, donned a special suit, slathered himself in pigs’ blood, and allowed himself to be swallowed whole by an anaconda on “Eaten Alive,” in a two-hour special produced by the Discovery Channel that would air December 7. Rosolie would be removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, presumably before he was digested. Animal rights groups and zoologists objected, quite accurately, that this was cruelty to animals for sport.
What did viewers see on December 7? (I’m sorry: my sock drawer desperately needed organizing that day. I’m basing this on published accounts.) Rosolie found an appropriately large and hungry snake and attracted its attention in the water. The 20-feet long reptile attacked, wrapped around him and then began to constrict. Then the snake started to try to eat the naturalist head first: Rosolie’s helmet camera provided a lovely shot of the anaconda’s gaping throat.
At that point, Rosolie did a terrific imitation of Gene Wilder as “Young Frankenstein” after he had himself locked in a room with the Monster with instructions that nobody should let him out no matter how much he begged. (“Let me out! Let me OUT OF HERE!!! GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!….Mommy!” ) Rosalie’s team rushed in and pulled him away, disappointing the snake. Continue reading
The song from H.M.S. Pinafore tells the story amazingly well.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, a horrendous situation resembling the plot-resolving song from “H.M.S. Pinafore” may be reaching an unusual resolution for such cases—a sensible and ethical one. The families never suspected until one of the mothers underwent tests when her ex-husband refused to pay child support. One of the mothers wanted her biological child back, while the other wants to keep the child she had raised. A judge now has to decide.
The court asked the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Child Law to investigate and make a report n what would be in the children’s best interests. The experts’ answer: “The recommendation is that the children should stay with the parents who have raised them and should also be permitted to have contact with their biological parents.”
Exactly. Let’s hope that the court follows the recommendation, the only ethical one. Four years old is too old for this wrong to be set right without making it worse. What about three years old, though? Where do we draw that line? Furthermore, I am assuming that the two families are more or less equally fit, able and qualified to raise children. What if the investigation showed that one family was clearly more advantageous for a child: better educated parents with more resources and experience with children, living in a safer community? Then what would be the calculation of “the right thing”? The benefit of one child would be the detriment of the other, a zero sum game. In such a case, would fairness govern, rather than the best interests of the children? Why should one child be cheated out of the better life awaiting him, because of a nurse’s mistake? Fortunately, we don’t have those details, so we can make a confident abstract ethics judgement without confounding factors and issues. Continue reading
There are times, not many, but a sufficient number to make my existence significantly grayer than I wish it to be, when I feel as if my professional endeavors have been in vain, and indeed, a waste of time. One such instance was the widespread defense of torture during the Bush administration. Another has been the reaction of some readers here to my post about Israel razing the homes of the families of presumed terrorists. I do not see how anyone who grasps the basic principles of ethics as they are explored and explicated on Ethics Alarms daily can pronounce such a policy as justified, justifiable, or anything other than unethical. If regular readers hear can come to a different conclusion, I am either not doing my job well, or the job itself is not worth doing.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to stop razing the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis. The group called it a war crime, and I don’t like the concept of war crimes generally. The New York based organization’s argument, however, is irrefutable:
“Israel should impose an immediate moratorium on its policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis. The policy, which Israeli officials claim is a deterrent, deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing. When carried out in occupied territory, including east Jerusalem, it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime.”
Putting the war crime label aside, it is wrong enough that the act punishes those who have done nothing wrong other than be associated with a wrongdoer. There is no ethical system under which such an act is ethically defensible. It is an abuse of power. It fails any standard of Kantian ethics, using human beings as a means to an end, and proposing a standard that would, if universally adopted, send civilization into barbarism. It even fails extreme utilitarian ethics, for this means doesn’t even achieve a desirable end. The Israeli army believes that the razings do nothing to stem terrorist attacks, and there is no way that contention can be disproved. It is simply Old Testament justice of the most irrational and brutal kind. Continue reading