Category Archives: Popular Culture

Bergen Community College Shows Us Why Justin Carter Is Being Persecuted

Can't have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Can’t have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Remember Justin Carter? Last I checked, he was being tried for making a joke on Facebook, because of the culture of fear and speech monitoring created by the irresponsible hysteria over guns and terrorism.  He faces prison time. That this is a freedom-suffocating societal illness that threatens any and all of us is chronicled in Ken White account, and accompanying commentary, on the astonishing mistreatment of Bergen Community College Professor Francis Schmidt by the school, which was sent into a frenzy of terror because he posted to Google+ “a cute picture of his young daughter wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt in a yoga pose next to a cat.”  Inside Higher Ed reports what happened next: Continue reading

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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????

Continue reading

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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

Annoyances For The Obsessing Traveling Ethicist

Hepburn

I just got home from another day trip, and am too weary to essay a significant post. Allow me, instead, to give readers a taste of what goes through one’s mind when you have begun to focus exclusively on ethics in preparation for a key, out-of-state presentation:

  • The incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. Shortly before leaving for the airport on Sunday, I watched the local Fox affiliate report on the new Vogue cover, featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. One of the two anchorwomen noted that there was a parody of the cover titled “Vague” featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy in the same poses. She pronounced it as “Vagg.” Her partner did not correct her. I think newsreaders should be able to read, don’t you?
  • Dishonesty in headlines. With the Kardashians still gnawing at my brain, I noticed an issue of “Star” in an airport magazine rack. The headline read, “Kardashians Cancelled!” Filled with momentary hope for civilization, I looked up the corresponding story in the rag. It stated that cable’s “Keeping Up With The Kardashians had been renewed, but that the family was worried that it might be cancelled next year. Yes, the headline was “X” and the story was “Not X.” I don’t care that the Star is just a glossy paper tabloid—how can anyone justifying this? Deceitful headlines are bad, but at least they are literally true, if misleading. Tabloid ethics are as low as ethics can be, but this flat-out false cover headline seems to have breached them… a neat trick.
  • More  incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. CNN’s John Berman showed a clip of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton with Jimmy Kimmel and said…”Next…what Jimmy Kimmel did with three generations of Clintons.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Professions

What Is An Ethical Tiger Lily?

Believe it or not, this is Disney's version of an Indian chief.

 Disney’s version of an Indian chief.

I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading

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Who’s That Woman On The Cover of “O” Magazine?

l, c: O yesterday; r: Cover O.

l, c: O yesterday; r: Cover O.

By purest coincidence, I was looking through a magazine rack at CVS yesterday and taking notice of how well Oprah Winfrey has been keeping the pounds off lately. Then, this morning, I saw footage of her walking across a stage to announce her latest venture, something to do with chai tea. Mama mia! The woman I saw smiling and waving, presumably the real Oprah, was easily 50 pounds heavier than the look-alike who has been gracing the cover of recent O’s, though I will say, as mitigation, that the strategically shot March cover has a graphic over OW’s gut.

I could not care less how much Oprah weighs or what she looks like. However, an ethical narcissistic—and what else can you call a woman who publishes a magazine named after herself that has her as the cover model for every single issue?—has limited choices:

  • Keep yourself in fabulous shape, so you are fit to be a cover girl (by your own standards)
  • Don’t put yourself on the cover when you don’t feel cover-worthy
  • Use cartoons, or
  • Let it all hang out.

Not an ethical option: showing your loyal, trusting readers that you look one way, when in fact you look a whole lot fatter.

Yes, yes, I know—photoshopping, airbrushing, make-up, glamor photos, “it’s done all the time.” This is Oprah’s magazine, her image and her body, and pictures communicate. Her covers say “This is what I look like, be like me.” If she doesn’t look like her covers or even close, that’s an outright, calculated lie. It’s really as simple as that.

 

 

 

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Ethics Quote of the Day: Composer Mitch Leigh, 1928-2014

DQWindmill

“I think if you see that no one is going to laugh at you for it, I think the concept of living nicely will be infectious. I believe there is room for the absence of cynicism. This is my final dream before I take the last cab.”

Mitch Leigh, Broadway composer best knows for the music of “Man of La Mancha”-–and “The Impossible Dream,” of course,  in an interview with the New York Times last year, quoted by the Washington Post in the obituary today for Leigh, who finally caught that cab.

The context of the quote was Leigh’s ad for a residential community he tried to launch on land he had bought in New Jersey. His ads seeking businesses and suburbanites requested that only nice people move in.

Leigh didn’t write the famous lyrics of “The Impossible Dream”—-Joe Darion did. He was clearly influenced by the song, however, beyond the fact that it made him rich. Maybe a society with less cynicism where people put a premium on being nice is an impossible dream; certainly the United States has been treavelling in the opposite direction. As an “unreachable star” to reach for, however, it’s not a bad one at all. In the Sixties, people were inspired by “The Impossible Dream.” Now pretty much everyone snickers at them.

You can’t convince me that’s progress.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Etiquette and manners, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Noah” Ethics

noahs-beaver-problem

Patrice, the Ethics Alarms resident Catholic theologian (and a dear friend), weighs in on the “Noah” controversy, in the this Comment of the Day on the post, “Noah” Ethics:

My undergraduate theology degree is indisputably from a Catholic perspective, although many of the scholars we studied were not Catholic, nor even Christian. I was required to take only 4 semesters of biblical literature, but even those few academic hours of biblical studies taught me enough about biblical analysis to understand how “The Bible” (which, as I’m sure you know, is just a mutually-agreed upon canon of literature which omits as much as it includes) came to be. I often think that it is a shame that true knowledge about biblical literature mostly seems to reside only in academia. Unfortunately, most of the zealots out there would and probably do regard biblical scholarship as an attack on God. The battles over the centuries over biblical inerrancy/infallibility/literalism are merely unread footnotes to most people. Continue reading

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“My Little Pony” Ethics, Blaming the Victim, and the Dilemma Of The Bully Magnet

Rainbow Dash...awwww!

Rainbow Dash…awwww!

Nine-year-old Grayson Bruce likes “My Little Pony,” a long-running animated children’s TV show that has a cult following in the gay community. He decided to show his affection for the show by carrying his lunch in a “Rainbow Dash” themed bag featuring a popular equine character. Now some of Grayson’s fellow male students at the Buncombe County (North Carolina) elementary school he attends have stepped up their harassment of the boy as a reaction to his tastes in entertainment and accessories.

“They’re taking it a little too far, with punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names, stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” Grayson says. It’s not like he doesn’t understand why. “Most of the characters in the show are girls, and most of the people put it toward girls,” he notes. His mother complained to the school, and it says it is taking appropriate measures to deal with the bullies and bullying in general. It also told Grayson to leave Rainbow Dash at home, caliming that it is a “trigger for bullying” and a distraction. Mom, Noreen Bruce, objects. Continue reading

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The Academy’s “In Memoriam” Snubs: Much Better This Year—Thanks, Oscar

The great Jonathan Winters in the not-so-great "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

The great Jonathan Winters in the not-so-great “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”

In past years I have taken the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to task for the ethical breach of ingratitude and disrespect, as the honor roll of the year’s deceased film notables have omitted important figures who deserved their final bows. Omissions are inevitable, I suppose, but some of the past examples were unforgivable—last year alone, for example, the Academy snubbed Ann Rutherford, Andy Griffith, R.G. Armstrong, Russell Means, Harry Carey, Jr., and Susan Tyrell. 2012 was worse.

2013, however, shows that the Academy is being more careful, and Oscar deserves credit for cleaning up its act. I have ethical and historical objections to bestowing the prestigious final slot on actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, dead prematurely of self-inflicted drug abuse, when a genuine, bona fide Hollywood legend, Shirley Temple, was on the list. I understand the thinking: Hoffman had friends and colleagues in the room, and Temple is of another generation; his premature death was a tragedy, and she lived a long and productive life. Still, the priorities and relative values such a choice exemplifies is disturbing. Great actor that he was, Hoffman was a criminal, an addict, and left his children fatherless. Shirley was the greatest child star who ever will be, a ray of sunshine in the dark days of the Depression, a one-of-a kind talent and icon, and later a lifetime public servant who raised a family. She represented the best of Hollywood and the profession; Hoffman represents its dark side. Naturally, he’s the one who received the greatest recognition. I will suppress my dark suspicions that Shirley was docked because she was a Republican. A  Facebook friend actually wrote that Shirley deserved to be penalized because some of her movies were racist. My response to this slur was not friendly. Continue reading

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