Category Archives: Humor and Satire

John Paul Stevens’ Gilbertian Nonsense

 

The Lord Chancellor-Stevens

A rather long preface is in order. Bear with me, please…

In the great, underperformed Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” W.S. Gilbert, a lawyer by training, devised a satirical judicial solution to a dire turn in the plot. Iolanthe, a fairy, violated Fairy Law by marrying a mortal, who happened to be the Lord Chancellor of England (he never noticed her wings, apparently.) The transgression commands the death penalty, but Iolanthe received a pardon on the condition that she allow her husband to think her dead, which she does for a couple of decades, much of which she spends doing penance at the bottom of a froggy stream, on her head.…but I digress.

When she learns, however, that her husband of yore is about to marry the sweetheart of her half-fairy son, who, though the Lord Chancellor doesn’t know it, is also his son, Iolanthe reveals herself and the paternity to the Lord Chancellor, who is duly stunned. This again triggers the death penalty and just minutes away from the finale, it looks like Iolanthe is going to end up like Carlo in “The Godfather,” as the fairy equivalent of Clemenza waddles on to the stage. (That’s how I would stage it, anyway.) Then this happens: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, War and the Military

Ethics Dunce: Joy Behar

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits...,

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits…,

The View edged up in my estimation a tic or two when Joy Behar exited it for her own show, now mercifully ended. Admittedly, this enhancement still left that offensive ABC daytime talk-fest well below water, but anything was an improvement over Behar, the epitome of a loud and opinionated celebrity with nothing to contribute of substance to any discussion except misplaced arrogance and noise. I’m sure I’ve flagged at least one or two of her stunts…let’s check. Why yes, here is one: I wrote this when Joy led a walk-out on guest Bill O’Reilly because he had the bad taste to suggest that Muslims took down the Twin Towers. (They did, you know.)

Given her antics through the years, I was stunned to discover that anyone would compensate this awful woman to give her a podium, but someone did. On April 1, Behar was one of a group of New Jersey comedians hired to participate in a “roast” of former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne, who is in his nineties. On the dais with Byrne was the current governor Chris Christie, who, this being a roast, came in for more than his share of the jibes from the comics, who were generally clever about it. Behar, however, decided to make her act personal and nasty. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Professions

My Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) Post: “Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly”

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney...

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney…

Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense  of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…) Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society, Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire

I Repeat: April Fools Day Is Not For Ethical Professionals

april-fools-day-banner

In a much attacked post here way back in 2010, I offered some ethical guidelines for April Fool’s Day, which was just beginning to get out of hand. I was right, my critics were wrong, and maybe some of the mockers who are now trying to figure out when their favorite news organization is lying to them today for fun, as opposed to the rest of the year when it lies to them out of bias or incompetence, are beginning to appreciate my position.

I just watched three different morning news shows that contained fake news or commentary that the reporters and anchors, at least, seemed to think was hilarious. In one case, on Fox, conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham dead-panned a remarkably even-handed and fair explanation for HHS Secretary Sibelius’s much-maligned TV silence when asked about the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity.  April Fool! Laura wasn’t being fair or objective, she was just tricking Fox’s audience into being angry at her for being fair and objective, or, in my case, admiring her integrity for pointing out that the incident had more than one plausible interpretation. Got me, Laura. I just heard an NPR host plead with the audience not to regard the upcoming segment as a hoax because of the date, an especially difficult plea since NPR springs virtual hoaxes on its audience all year.

The first and most important of my April Fools guidelines was this:

1. April Fools’ Day tricks are not for professionals to play on those who depend on them, trust them, or otherwise rely on them for information or services, unless there is a special relationship as well. The risks of harm and abuse are too great.

The succeeding four years have validated my position. Journalism, government and politics are the prime examples. CNN played a video that showed Jay Carney crowing yesterday about the Affordable Care Act’s success even as the Healthcare.gov website had crashed. Wait..is this a joke? Did the Obama White House film this for fun and games? They wouldn’t do this, you say? Government officials don’t use their high office for jokes and hoaxes? Really?

Sen. Ted Cruz, also on Fox, showed his new tattoo, apparently an April Fools’ joke, but also said he was certain that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. Which is more likely, that the AFA will be repealed, or that wacky Ted Cruz would get a tattoo? Slate has a post up by someone called Rehan Salan, which is, clearly, a clever anagram for “En Anal Rash” or something, arguing that adults without children should be forced to pay extra taxes to support parents. Hah! Good one, Slate! That should turn the “pro choice” crowd on its head: lets; punish the choice not to have children via a penalty—I’m sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, a tax, wink-wink. Wait…that isn’t a joke? Ok, well, I’m sure about this, then: that fake video showing famous tough guy Don Baylor, a record holder for being hit by pitches when he played and now a coach for the Los Angeles Angels, “breaking his leg” catching the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season. April Fools, right ESPN? No????

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: HBO Comic Bill Maher

at_the_end_of_the_world

Yes, you read that right.

Soon dogs and cats will be sleeping together, the world will stop spinning on its axis, and there will be snowball fights in Hell. It is the end of the world.

On the latest installment “Real Time with Bill Maher, “HBO’s weekly conservative/ Republican bash-fest, Maher, whom his progressive guests trust  implicitly to be of a like mind, read a quote that the posted graphic  identified as issuing from Rep. Paul Ryan. The 2012 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate had been slammed earlier in the week for “racially coded” comments about the need to change the culture in the inner city. Here is the quote:

“When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. They’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

Then Bill let his guests take turns criticizing Ryan for blaming black Americans for problems over whichthey had no control, while sole conservative guest (Bill only allows one token punching bag from the right per show) Rick Lazio was mocked and laughed at by the studio audience for defending Ryan’s point. Finally, after letting everyone hang themselves, Maher revealed that the real speaker was…. Michelle Obama.

As Ralph Cramden…that is, the Great One, Jackie Gleason, used to say,

Thank you, Bill!

He was the perfect one to pull this revealing and damning stunt, being a reliable race-baiter himself (on an earlier show, Maher countered Bill Kristol’s challenge to the liberal cant that Republican opposition to President Obama is based on racial bias by asserting that he “absolutely” believed that.) But Bill isn’t above tricking and embarrassing his loyal allies and toadying audience for publicity and to pose as a truth-teller so his future deceptions, slanders and lies have more credibility. One can do the right thing, and a very beneficial thing, for unethical reasons, and I am absolutely certain that the despicable, amoral, cynical and vicious “comic” had nothing but base motives for this stunt. In fact, tricking invited guests who trust him into exposing their own bias was despicable, terrible host etiquette, and dishonest, but then Bill’s show is something of an ethics-free zone anyway. Anyone, right or left, who enables Maher by appearing on his show has waived the right to have my sympathy. In another case, I might argue that the end doesn’t justify the means, but anyone who voluntarily agrees to keep Maher’s show on the air deserves what he or she gets. This is the Scorpion and the Frog at its clearest.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Race

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Maricopa, Arizona Vice-Mayor Ed Farrell

The OnionWhat conduct definitively labels an elected official as incompetent, you ask? Well, opinions may differ, but I think we can all agree the publicly exposing yourself as uninformed, ignorant, and devoid of reading comprehension qualifies.

Meet Maricopa, Arizona Vice-Mayor Ed Farrell (D), who saluted the passing of anti-gay, military funeral-disrupting Fred Phelps, who tookleave of this homosexual-blighted world recently, by writing this on his Facebook page:

“We need more Fred Phelps in this world. May you rest in peace sir….This world needs to get back to the biblical standards that our God made for us. This guy was not afraid to preach it, and I respect that.”

To prove his point, Farrell linked to a satirical obituary in The Onion, believing it to be genuine. He believed this despite clues like the following:

“What Fred Phelps accomplished over the past 30 years—from a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, to nationwide laws allowing businesses to turn away gay customers—makes him easily one of the most successful and monumental figures of the past century,” said biographer Michael Ammons, noting that depictions of gays and lesbians began to disappear from popular culture and the media as soon as Phelps began taking his powerful rallies against homosexuality from state to state. “Fred Phelps devoted his life to one goal, and he triumphed. This was an incredibly influential man who deserved all the attention he received. Think of the legacy he leaves behind: In the past three decades, homosexuality has become practically nonexistent in society.”

Wishful thinking, perhaps, on Farrell’s part?

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials

Ethics Diagnosis: #SueyParkisanirresponsiblepowerhungrypoliticalcorrectnessbully

Colbert gag

Suey Park has declared war on Stephen Colbert over a promotional tweet made in his name by some Comedy Central PR employee. Not that there was anything wrong with the tweet*, unless you chose to willfully misconstrue it. The line was a quote from Colbert during a comic riff on his show mocking Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s lame effort to deflect criticism of his team’s name as being ‘racist.’ (Reminder: It isn’t—not in the context in which is being used. Tasteless? Perhaps…) Anyone who is familiar with Colbert’s schtick—it is all tongue in cheek, exaggeration, irony, sarcasm and satire—understands that the Twitter quote is mocking the idea that one can continue being “racially insensitive” as long as you set up a foundation to show sensitivity to the group you have been accused of being racially insensitive about. Here is an explanation of how Park saw an opening for some cheap social media muscle-flexing, from Slate:

“On Wednesday night Stephen Colbert made sport of Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and his plan to undercut criticism of the team name by founding an organization for the uplift of “original Americans.” Colbert ran though all the reasons why this was funny, then called back to a skit from one of the show’s first episodes, way back from the fall of 2005—a joke about the host being caught on a “live feed” playing a racist Asian stereotype (Ching Chong Ding Dong, from Guanduong), then not understanding why it was racist. Colbert would make amends with his new “Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” He’d played versions of the game since then, dressing up in a sombrero for “Hispanic heritage month.” It’s one of the Colbert character’s oldest gags—he “doesn’t see color,” so he can’t ever be blamed if he accidentally does something horribly racist.”

The rest of the story: Suey Park pounced, first telling Colbert “Fuck you” and then sending her many followers a directive to flood the twitterverse with   …. and so they did, and have. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

“Noah” Ethics

God

There is nothing unethical about “Noah,” the biblical spectacular that harkens back to the grand old days when Cecil B. DeMille reigned supreme. I haven’t seen the movie, and yet I can say that with absolute certainty. The reason I can say it that there is no way on earth that a movie about Noah and the Ark, in this day and age, could possibly be unethical. Even if the Old Testament were literal fact, which it is not, cannot be and in all likelihood was never intended to be, “Noah” couldn’t possibly be unethical, because it is a movie.

Never mind that of all the Biblical fables, with the possible exception of Adam and Eve, the tale of Noah is perhaps the most obviously impossible. The movie is art—of one kind or another—and does not represent itself as a documentary or make any factual assertions whatsoever. Thus it can be distinguished from a truly unethical film like Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which intentionally misrepresented recent historical facts to “prove” a theory of the Kennedy assassination that was irresponsible and almost certainly false. Is “Noah” dishonest? It is impossible to be dishonest about a presumptively non-historical event about which there is no direct evidence whatsoever, and when there is no intention to deceive. Is it disrespectful? Art has no duty to be respectful. Is it fair? Fair to who? An artist’s stakeholders are those who appreciate his or her art. Does it do harm, or intend to? No. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Observations On The President’s “Funny or Die” Appearance.

You should watch the entire “Funny or Die” bit here.

1. As has been obvious from the beginning of his administration, President Obama has retained the most incompetent, tone-deaf, leadership-ignorant and inept advisors in recent history, and those advising his predecessors were nothing to be proud of. This means that President Obama has tolerated, and worse, followed the advice of such incompetent advisors. He also selected them. He is accountable.

2. For the President of the United States, in the middle of an international crisis in which his authority, power and stature is central, to submit himself as a prop in a comedy video is irresponsible, reckless, and shows abysmal priorities and judgment. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising

Ethics Dunce: Howard Kurtz…One Way Or The Other

Radner as "Baba Wawa." Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond...

Radner as “Baba Wawa.” Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond…

Maybe the ethics component in the title is gilding the lily in this case. Fox’s Kurtz, in attacking what he perceives as the unfairness of Stephen Colbert’s barbs, certainly misunderstands the ethics of Colbert’s craft, but what he primarily proves is that he’s a dunce…what kind of dunce, it’s difficult to tell. Is he the kind of dunce who can’t take a joke? Or is he the kind of  dunce who doesn’t realize he should leave the gags to professionals?

The former media ethics watchdog for the Washington Post, CNN and the Daily Beast, now playing that role for Fox News (all oxymoron jokes gratefully accepted), says that he has finally had his fill of being mocked by Colbert, the Comedy Central satirist whose gimmick is playing a conservative fool in order to ridicule real ones.

“It’s about time someone took on Stephen Colbert,” Kurtz wrote in what is either  serious piece on Fox News Insider, or a criminally inept attempt at ironic humor. “This guy—a fake anchor if ever there was one—has been maligning hard-working journalists for too long. Journalists like me. In an effort to get a few cheap laughs, this Comedy Central clown took my work out of context and, worse, engaged in selective editing. It was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead viewers.”

Uh, Howie? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media