I keep getting emails asking when I’m going to discuss Gamergate on Ethics Alarms. Several readers have sent me extensive links to bring me up to date. I’ve read them, or at least tried. Not since I was assigned the tome Peace and War by Raymond Aron has any text bored me more.
Gamergate appears to have all the markers of an ethics train wreck, but to me, at least, the train might as well be in Mongolia. I can’t contribute anything of value on this topic, because gaming is not part of my life, skill-set or interests in any way. This is a culture I don’t understand, and frankly, don’t have the time or interest to understand. I make a yeoman effort to keep up with popular culture, because I think once it gets too far ahead of you, your ability to understand the world around you is severely limited. But triage is essential. Just a few years ago, I knew who all the celebrity contestants on “Dancing With The Stars” were; this year, I never heard of half of them. More than half the stories on TMZ lately are about “celebrities” that are completely off my radar screen. I am confident, however, that in about six months, most of these stealth celebrities will be where Snookie and “The Situation” are now, which is obscurity, has-been Hell, or maybe jail.
There are ethics lessons to glean from this endless gamer scandal, but Ethics Alarms will just have to glean them elsewhere. For those who feel neglected, I highly recommend the recent post by Ken at Popehat, along with his links. It hits most of the salient ethics issues, and Ken, I gather, follows this stuff, as do his Popehat colleagues. My hat’s off to him, and them. But #Gamergate is one ethics controversy that I am not qualified to explore, and don’t want to be.
Here is a strong candidate for teacher/blogger Rick Jones’ annual Curmie Awards on his blog Curmudgeon Central. He recognizes the most despicable conduct by teachers and school administrators, and while this year’s award may go to some fourth grade teacher who sets autistic kids on fire, I know he will share my disgust at this story.
The theater club at Maiden High School in North Carolina was in production of John Cariani’s newly-popular stage dramedy “Almost, Maine,” a series of vignettes about bittersweet love and romance. A brief scene touches on a budding same-sex relationship, and this so worried school administrators that before green-lighting the production, Principal Rob Bliss and Catawba County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman decreed that every student wishing to audition or assist with the production must turn in signed parental permission letters. Only one student was prevented from auditioning through this screening process, and production commenced. The club to reserved the rights, rented the scripts, cast the parts and began rehearsals. The local churches learned that that the show contained (Ewww!) gay people, and the school abruptly reversed course, cancelling the production. Principle Bliss issued this weasel-worthy statement:
“In regards to the request for students to perform the play “Almost Maine,” careful review and consideration was given to the contents of this play. The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives. As principal of Maiden High School, I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages.”
He did not mention that the production had already been approved, and that he and the school caved to community censorship by right-wing bullies, intolerant religious jerks, or local jerks who didn’t have the resources to go to New York City and picket “The Death of Klinghoffer.” He had one, and exactly one, response available to him once complaints began rolling in from anti-gay, anti-same sex marriage citizens of fair Maiden. It would be this... Continue reading
All of a sudden, a post from 2011 is attracting more views in the last four days than it did in the previous four years. Odd are you missed it too, so so to avoid the anomaly of non-Ethics Alarms fans being more attuned to a post here than the loyal throng, I’m going to point the way to the link. The essay is titled “Clark Gable, Loretta Young, and the Betrayal of Judy Lewis,” and told the heart-breaking story of how Clark Gable denied his parenthood of his own daughter (that’s her to his left) to avoid a career-damaging scandal, while the child’s mother, Loretta Young, lied to her as well. It was and is an interesting and disturbing chapter in Hollywood history, and my commentary generated some furious defenses from fans of “The King,” who marshal every rationalization imaginable to try to justify a rich and famous father neglecting his only child, even after she became aware of who her father was. That phenomenon is as illuminating as the sad tale itself. Here, for example, is “Seeker”—see how many rationalizations you can find. I see at least four: Continue reading
Reene Zellweger, the squinty-eyed, chipmunk-cheeked actress who achieved fame in such films as “Jerry Maguire” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” emerged from a period of relative seclusion this week looking like someone else entirely. The consensus was that the 45-year-old had undergone radical cosmetic surgery—not the face destroying kind that actresses like Meg Ryan or Priscilla Presley inflicted on themselves, but the “I don’t care if my mother won’t recognize me, at least I don’t look old” kind. When an actor or an actress does this, since their faces are their trademarks, it is bound to make an impression, and it has.
It is a tragic spectacle illustrating the degree to which American culture elevates looks above accomplishments, individuality, integrity and character, especially for women. Zellweger, whom I foolishly assumed was immune to this sickness since she was so unconventional looking, is obviously a victim, but now she is part of a cultural contagion. A fish doesn’t know that it is in water, and culture is like that water, completely constraining our attitudes, culture and choices without our knowledge or control. When celebrities, who have influence far beyond what their wisdom, virtues and value should rightfully support, and who are seen as being experts in the matter of appearance, send the message to the young and contemporaries that even the forfeiture of one’s identity is a fair price to pay to avoid the signs of natural aging, that pollutes our water.
And poisons the other fish. Continue reading
We are coming up on the anniversary of my post asking for nominations for the most ethical pop songs from past decades. Both here and in my office mail box, I received excellent suggestion—so many, that I have not been able to find the time to finish the project. However, I am determined to have the final list ready by the anniversary date, November 14, 2014.
So there is still time to get your nominations in. Meanwhile, as I was driving home from a Virginia Beach ethics seminar and keeping myself occupied during the three hour drive with the Sirius-XM 50s-60’s-70’s and 80’s stations, I heard this song, by Leslie Gore, from 1964:
With the domestic abuser ethics issue still percolating in my fevered brain, it occurred to me, as it had not before, what a vile message the song sent to teenaged girls. “What else can” Leslie do about her abusive boyfriend? Dump him, that’s what. I wonder if Janay Rice knows this song.
Or sang it. Continue reading