Category Archives: Humor and Satire

Ethics Reflections On A Souvenir Wall Hanging

Welcome to my world...

Welcome to my world…

“Can’t you ever stop thinking about ethics?” my wife said to me a few minutes ago. We were walking around historic Williamsburg, Virginia—I have seminar to teach in a couple hours—and I saw a ceramic wall hanging for sale at the charming Christmas store in the town square. It read…

IF WE CAN SEND A MAN TO THE MOON, WHY CAN’T WE SEND THEM ALL THERE?

Maybe it’s an old joke, but I hadn’t encountered it before. I thought it was kind of funny in a “this is a parody of over-the-top, ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ seventies feminism” way, but I find myself wondering…

-Would progressives consider this “eliminationist rhetoric?” Hate speech?

-If not, why not?

-Would a gender-reversed version of the joke be funny? Would feminists consider it offensive? Would such feminists defend the wall-hanging? Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

Memorial Ethics: Under Armour’s “Disrespect”

Underarmor

The Horror…

Just in time for Memorial Day comes this depressing example of how timid and wan Americans have become when free speech and expression are under attack. This is how acceptance of the Universal Veto of the Officious Offended will reduce the U.S. to a barren, humorless, imagination-free culture dominated by political correctness bullies and exploitive self-anointed, power-seeking “victims.”

Under Armour advertised a “Band of Ballers” tee-shirt showing a silhouette of men in backwards baseball caps raising a basketball hoop in the iconic pose of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, in which combat weary soldiers are frozen in the act of raising an American flag after the Marine’s bloody victory at Iwo Jima.

There is nothing remotely wrong with this design. It is not disrespectful It is satire. It is a parody. It is using the status of the image to extol basketball; only a fool could read the image as an effort to denigrate veterans or the American flag. Personally, I think it’s clever, just as I like Charles Addams’ cartoon showing butchers wrestling with sausages in the pose of the famous statue of Laocoon and his sons being devoured by serpents…

Addams Cartoon

…or parodies of Washington crossing the Delaware, like this ad for HBO’s “Veep”… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Sports, U.S. Society

This Is David Letterman’s Final Week On CBS. Good.

I have a hard time laughing at awful people.

I have a hard time laughing at awful people.

I will not be shedding tears or watching while biting my lower lip as David Letterman, Late Night Fick and ethics corrupter, finally leaves the pop culture scene, one hopes forever. The testimonials and accolades in Letterman’s case are nauseating; CNN spent almost 20 minutes singing his praises this morning. Every other late night talk show icon—Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno—managed to finish their tenures without making American society meaner, more divided, and less ethical in the process. Not Dave. He rode his stardom and the initially refreshing irreverent comic instincts that created it to test the limits of the King’s Pass, doing and saying things that would have gotten less lucrative performers fired or suspended. In the process he corrupted his network, his audience and his nation’s culture.

The fact that Letterman is a misanthropic, bitter, angry man should not be a surprise, for almost all the great comics are, and it has ever been thus. “Milton was a miserable bastard. We all are,” Sid Caesar once said to a shocked Larry King as he was trying to coax out some kind words about Milton Berle, who had just died. Sid was undeniably right, but most comic manage to keep their vile behavior out of the spotlight until someone in his inner circle cashes in with a tell-all book. Not Letterman. He cheated on his live-in girlfriend with his current wife, then had a son with his mistress six years before he deigned to marry her. Once whimsical, he became a broadcast bully, neatly choosing victims whom he knew he could abuse without his liberal audience—a bit older and less vulgar than Bill Maher’s—holding him to standards of decency.

In 2009, Letterman noted that Sarah Palin attended a Yankees game during a recent trip to New York City. First Letterman referred to Palin, then Alaska’s governor, as having the style of a “slutty flight attendant,” then said,  “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game…during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” The daughter accompanying Palin was Willow Palin, then 14-years-old. Sarah Palin, among others, sharply criticized the late night host’s choice of targets. The next night, Letterman unconvincingly claimed that he was really attacking Bristol, Palin’s older daughter.

Oh, well that’s OK, then. If he had made a similar joke about Chelsea Clinton, CBS would have suspended Letterman so fast he wouldn’t have had time to say bye-bye to Paul Shaffer. It wasn’t until later, after NOW weighed in on the inappropriateness of Letterman’s joke, that he finally apologized to all involved. See, the National Organization for Women matter–they’re not conservatives. Or Republicans.

NOW was strangely quiet, however, when it was revealed later that year that the recently-married Dave was a serial sexual harasser and running his show and production company like his own personal harem. Among his conquests was Holly Hester, who announced that she and Letterman had engaged in a year-long “secret” affair in the early 1990s while she was his intern and a student at New York University.  The official explanation for why no discipline of Letterman was forthcoming was, believe it or not, that Worldwide Pants, Dave’s  appropriately-named production company, had no policies forbidding superiors from boinking their staff members, who depended on them for their career advancement and livelihood. Gee, I wonder why? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Atrocious People, Part III: The “Fuck Her Right in Her Pussy” Saga

He started it.

He started it.

How did I miss this offensive, disgusting story presaging the end of civilization? I mean, I’m rather glad I did, and am now sorry to have to confront ugly reality (Gee, thanks, Mediaite!) But it has been a phenomenon for nearly a year, and one reason it escaped my notice is the news media’s infantile and cowardly refusal to publish key information directly when they think it might offend someone, or sometimes when they fear Islamic maniacs might kill them for it.

Journalists do realize that their job is to inform, not talk in code, right? This story was commonly refereed to as FHRIHP. Catchy. Also completely useless, unless you already knew what the letters stood for.

But I digress.

Or perhaps I’m stalling.

About a year ago, some boor trying to create a meme and sell crude t-shirts created fake video featuring a crazy old guy in a hood grabbing a female TV reporter’s microphone in a live shoot and yelling, “Fuck her right in her pussy!” This “hilarious” prank went viral even after it was revealed as a hoax. But because there are a lot of males whose mental and emotional age is about 12 and whose manners would be inappropriate in a barn, the practice of bystanders “videobombing” live broadcasts by screaming “FHRIHP!” started becoming a professional hazard for on-the-scene reporters, causing re-takes, expense, and embarrassment. This has been going on all this time.

Let me pause to say that screaming “FHRIHP!” isn’t humor. It isn’t witty, it isn’t clever, it isn’t even original. It’s vulgar, gratuitous disrespect and misogyny. Waving at the camera and mouthing “Hi Mom!” is stupid; this isn’t even that. It’s anti-social behavior. It’s life pollution. It makes mooning out the windows of cars look sophisticated. It makes pooping out the windows of cars look sophisticated. Do I make myself clear? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: CNN Morning Anchor John Berman

When to you break out the dick jokes, John?

When to you break out the dick jokes, John?

There is apparently no way to stop the trend of supposed professionals polluting our discourse, and the airwaves by inflicting gratuitous vulgarity on us, apparently in the mistaken belief that doing so is clever and cute. It isn’t. It’s unprofessional, juvenile and embarrassing.

CNN anchor John Berman is the latest to join the smut brigade. Announcing a promotion for CNN’s evening entertainment show, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” starring Mike Rowe, in which Rowe will be doing something—I really don’t care—involving boulders—Berman smirkingly began, “Mike Rowe shows us big stones!” Nice. And stupid. Kate Bolduan, sitting next to him, seemed visibly annoyed, and when he repeated the “joke” after the break, said, curtly, “Please stop.” Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace

Emoji Ethics…Oh, All Right, I Won’t Be Coy: The Unethical Firing Of Chad Franks

Screen-Shot-2015-04-28-at-10.50.42-PM

Would you fire someone based on that tweet? Is it so horrible to you, so seering to your senses, that it warrants harming a human being’s career and welfare? Can you even detect what it was that got its author fired? Could the person doing the firing believe that he or she would deserve firing for such a tweet, as in, say, The Golden Rule?

Has the world gone mad?

First the basics: What the hell is an emoji? From Wikipedia:

“Emoji (絵文字(えもじ)are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji). The characters are used much like ASCII emoticons or kaomoji, but a wider range is provided, and the icons are standardized and built into the handsets. Some emoji are very specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, a white flower used to denote “brilliant homework,” or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi. The three main Japanese mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone), have each defined their own variants of emoji. Although originally only available in Japan, some emoji character sets have been incorporated into Unicode, allowing them to be used elsewhere as well. As a result, emoji have become increasingly popular after their international inclusion in Apple’s iOS in 2011 as the Apple Color Emoji typeface,which was followed by similar adoption by Android and other mobile operating systems. Apple’s OS X operating system supports emoji as of version 10.7 (Lion).Microsoft added monochrome Unicode emoji coverage to the Segoe UI Symbol system font in Windows 8 and added color emoji in Windows 8.1 via the Segoe UI Emoji font.”

In short, they are tiny pictures increasingly used by Twitter freaks to jazz up their tweets. If you don’t look for them, you may miss them. They are, essentially, cartoons.

Chad Shanks, who ran the NBA Houston Rockets’  Twitter account as the team’s digital communications manager, posted the above tweet to celebrate the impending end of the first-round NBA play-off series with the Dallas Mavericks. The emoji of a pistol pointed at a an emoji of a horse’s head—the Mavericks’ mascot is some kind of a horse-human hybrid monster—in the upper left-hand corner was deemed by management so vile that Shanks’ head had to metaphorically roll. The shocking, PTSD triggering tweet with its reference to cartoon violence was deleted and sent to cyber Hell, and Shanks grovelled an apology, writing, via Twitter, of course, that he was no longer with the organization:

“I did my best to make the account the best in the NBA by pushing the envelope, but pushed too far for some and for that I apologize….Sometimes you can go too far. I will no longer run @HoustonRockets  but am grateful to the organization that let me develop an online voice.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Kinky Law Professor Principle: “It’s No Shame To Be Kinky, But It Still Might Be Newsworthy”

We haven’t had a “Naked Teacher Principle” story to mull over for a while, and this isn’t one. It raises some parallel issues, though.

I saw the story about the Drexel Law professor who who accidentally sent her students a link to a pornographic video about anal beads. I didn’t find it worthy of a post, though I thought it was funny. It is funny. But we had covered a similar issue here, in the ethics quiz about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

That was funnier. She was “reassigned”—a not unreasonable result of presumed reduced respect from the class.  The Naked Teacher Principle doesn’t strictly apply when the students are adults, and Lisa McElroy, the professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law who is apparently an anal bead fan–the video she sent by accident was called called “She Loves Her Anal Beads”—wasn’t naked. There is no “Kinky Law Professor Principle.”

However, Prof. McElroy was mightily offended that her cyber-goof was picked up by the professional publications and websites, and that she was embarrassed as a result. She even posted a Streisand Principle-defying op-ed in the Washington Post, blaming everybody—students, bloggers, and Drexel, which briefly suspended the professor pending an investigation on the basis of possible sexual harassment—but herself. She argued that she should not have been publicly shamed, because, she wrote,

“…there was nothing newsworthy about it. What happened was, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial. My students are adults. The link was quickly removed. There was nothing illegal in the video. The post occurred in the same two-month period when the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” grossed almost $570 million worldwide. Yet, because it was porn and I’m a law professor, news organizations spread the story around the world.”

Yup. Because it was funny. I understand that the Professor doesn’t see the humor of a law professor—especially her—inadvertently sending her private porn film about anal beads, which themselves are kind of amusing, to a staid law school class. It’s still funny. Trivial? Of course. But trivial can still be funny. Would it be kind for all of us to scrupulously refuse to communicate the hilarious tales of when we do dumb things or embarrass ourselves? Yes. But society as a whole benefits from being reminded that we are all equally fallible human beings—especially the elite and privileged. A lot of people think laughing at slapstick is cruel too.

I pity them. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, The Internet