Category Archives: Popular Culture

Quote of the Week: Joan Rivers

joan-rivers-giving-finger1

 

AHHHHGGGGGRRRRRhhhrrrah….

Comedienne Joan Rivers, 81, in her reported final words before expiring yesterday.

Just kidding.

Too soon?

Joan Rivers would rate Ethics Hero status if I did not have a philosophical objection to calling someone a hero because everyone else is a weenie. Yes, Rivers spouted off whatever outrageous, impolitic, offensive thing that materialized in her nimble brain regardless of who it might offend, as long as she felt someone, or a critical mass of someones, would find it funny. That is the proper mindset for any professional comic, but it has become both a rare and dangerous one, as we regularly see comedians grovelling in remorse as soon as sufficient numbers of well-placed critics designate a joke as “insensitive.”

Rivers, whom I can never recall making me laugh for a second, served an important cultural purpose while she was alive, as do Jackie Mason, Mel Brooks and Don Rickles, perhaps the last remaining in-your-face comedians from the days when funny was all that mattered, and careers weren’t ended  by stepping just a little too far over the line, or even a lot too far. Her successors, like Sarah Silverman and Lewis Black, don’t count: they are vicious toward whatever group or groups their audience deems deserving of abuse, and only them. In the end, it is likely that the only clowns with the license that Rivers enjoyed will be animated cartoons, like Peter Griffin(“The Family Guy”) and Homer Simpson. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

Dunces, Heroes, and Fools In The Wake Of The Great Nude Actress Hack

Perez Hilton Yecch.

Perez Hilton
Yecch.

You should know by now that about a hundred actresses have had their nude photographs hacked from private accounts and posted for the world to drool over. As is often the case in such incidents, the ethical instincts, or lack thereof, of various individuals have been exposed in the wake of the event:

Ethics Dunce: Perez Hilton.

No surprise here: Hilton, a web gossip columnist and a different species of hack than the ones at issue, showed himself to have dead ethics alarms. After eagerly posting the uncensored photos  of Victoria Justice and Jennifer Lawrence on his celebrity gossip blog, Hilton was condemned far and wide on social media, so he first proved he didn’t get it by keeping up the photos but censoring the women’s naughty bits, and then taking them down entirely, explaining that “At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Arts & Entertainment, Popular Culture, Journalism & Media, The Internet, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Quotes, Humor and Satire, Character

Ice Bucket Challenge Ethics

Ice Bucket Challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a silly, brilliant fund-raising device that has simultaneously increased public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, brought over 14 million more dollars of donated funds into the ALS Association than last year for research, and provided some priceless YouTube fare, ranging from celebrity drenchings to this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4qADFNsDxE

Entertainment! Celebrities! Medical research! Charity! Public Education! How could there be anything unethical about such a phenomenon? Well, ethics often throw cold water on all manner of activities human beings crave, so it should not be too great a surprise that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated quite a few ethics-based objections. Let’s examine the potential, alleged and actual ethical flaws of the current fad, and rate them on an Ethics Foul Scale from zero (No ethical concerns at all) to ten ( Very Unethical).

1. It’s dangerous.

Anything can be dangerous if you are not sufficiently careful, and the Ice Bucket Challenge had its consequentialist moment when four firefighters were injured, one very seriously, trying to help the marching band at Campbellsville University get dumped with ice water this week. Two firefighters were in the bucket of their truck’s ladder preparing to douse the students using a firehose when a surge of electricity jumped from nearby power lines and electrucuted them and two colleagues. This was just a freak accident, however. Unlike the so-called Facebook Fire Challenge, the ALS fundraisng stunt shouldn’t be perilous to anyone, as long as practitioners don’t get too grandiose or creative.

Ethics Foul Score:

0

2. It wastes water.

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Charity, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, Uncategorized

Why Fox News’ Robin Williams Gaffe Matters

Oh, Fox, Fox, Fox….

As the tragic news of Robin William’s suicide spread across the media, Fox News made an utter ass of itself by using a fake “Mrs. Doubtfire” video featuring someone dressed like the Williams character to back Greta Van Susteren’s phone interview of Larry King about the comic’s career. The footage was labeled as coming from 20th Century Fox, and then the network moved on to clips from “Mork and Mindy.”

It was a just a mistake, but I think it was a mistake of significance:

1. The “Mrs. Doubtfire” spoof  video was found by some lazy and inept lower level Fox staff member, but obviously passed review by a director, an editor, and  others. Nobody who had any idea who Robin Williams was or the slightest familiarity with his work could have been involved in this. It tells us that Fox News is sloppy and unprofessional, and should cause legitimate concerns about their news gathering process, fact-checking, and trustworthiness. (I know, I know…) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

The O’Bannon Case: A Judge Explains How The Law Requires An Unethical and Corrupt Practice To Be Fair….But It’s Still Unethical and Corrupt

NCAA-ban

Now that a federal judge has declared the elite student-athletes at big time sports colleges to be what they are…paid mercenaries…and the sports programs at such institutions to be what we always knew they were…cynical sideshows that sacrificed education to greed…will the pubic, the media, educators, and universities now stop this slow-moving ethics train wreck?

Of course not.  If they cared about how high-profile college sports were warping both America’s education and its values, they would have addressed the problem decades ago. They would have stopped it before, for example, schools started paying football and basketball coaches more than any professor. They would have stopped it before prestigious schools gave degrees to graduates whose entire education was a sham, who took ridiculously easy courses and who were held to infantile academic standards, all so rich, fat alumni would continue writing checks. They would have stopped it before a revered football coach held such power in a university that he was able to persuade the school’s leadership to allow a child sexual predator operate on campus.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, in a 99-page ruling agreeing with the claim of a group of plaintiffs fronted by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, issued an injunction against the NCAA from “enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid.”

The ruling will be appealed, and some of its legal conclusions certainly seem debatable. That is not my concern. The opinion effectively kills the fiction that the semi-literate youths who perform on-the-field heroics to burnish the images of universities and attract huge broadcast fees are what the NCAA, alumni, students , the schools and the media pretend that they are. Now that we know they are not truly students, what persuasive ethical justifications can be given for them to play college sports at all?

My answer?

None. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Sports, U.S. Society

Tony Stewart, the Suspicious Death of Kevin Ward Jr and NASCAR’s Bizarro World Ethics

If a real Columbo was on his case, Tony Stewart might be in trouble.

If a real Columbo was on his case, Tony Stewart might be in trouble.

The word “ethics” and NASCAR should never be uttered in the same sentence without irony. After all, the sport arose out of the exploits of outlaw bootleggers. The current billion dollar sport’s culture regards cheating as “breaking rules and getting caught doing it.” The fact that the team manager of one of the sport’s biggest stars would see no reason for his meal-ticket not to compete today just because he was being investigated for what might have been a mid-race homicide yesterday shouldn’t shock anyone.

In case you missed it Saturday (I did, having a visceral aversion to NASCAR stronger than my dislike of nightcrawlers), NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart drove his car into twenty-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr., killing him, during a dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park  in upstate New York. Ward’s car and Stewart’s car had swiped each other during the race, disabling Ward’s vehicle. Ward left his car and was walking on a track with the caution flag out, waving his arms and pointing at Stewart. One car swerved to avoid Ward, but Stewart’s hit him, injuring him fatally. Until the media and public began to register its objections, Stewart was preparing to race today as if nothing had happened. As recently as this morning, Stewart team manager Greg Zipadelli called it “business as usual.”

It’s business as usual in a culture where a participant who just killed someone in public under suspicious circumstances sees no reason to show, or even fake, any remorse or contrition whatsoever. Here’s the latest entry on Tony Stewart’s website, at least as I write this:

“Thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s edition of “Tony Trivia.” This week’s answer: There’s no track on the circuit where Tony Stewart is more dominant than at Watkins Glen International.”

[UPDATE: At 1:pm Sunday, Stewart finally posted the statement about the accident that is now up on the site. Note that he says nothing about his part in the accident at all. It could be about any NASCAR accident, anywhere.]

Call me a silly sentimentalist, but if I ran down another racer and killed him, I would make certain that a public statement expressing sorrow and regret at the incident would be up on my “official website” before the first ESPN headline was written about the incident. Meanwhile, why would NASCAR allow a racer to compete after an incident like this? Oh, that’s right: because the only ethics in NASCAR involve making money, protecting its stars, winning races, and keeping the fans entertained. After all, having Stewart race today would be a great story. Will he kill again? Will any driver have the guts to point at him this time?

Yes, it’s Bizarro World ethics again, another culture with inverted values like the fictional cube planet in Superman comics, where idiotic clones of Superman and Lois Lane think, live and speak illogically. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Sports, Workplace

Woody Allen, James Shigata, And Diversity Casting Ethics

You have no idea who this is, do you? Well, it shouldn't have turned out  that way...

You have no idea who this is, do you? Well, it shouldn’t have turned out that way…

I’m sure you heard about James Garner’s recent death, but were you aware of James Shigata’s passing? Shigata, who died July 28 at the age of 85, was a contemporary of Garner’s, a superb actor, and like Garner, a leading man with leading man looks. James Shigata, however, was of Asian descent, though American through and through, and never escaped the perceived limitations of the shape of his eyes. Though he had a starring role in the hit film adaption of  the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song” and routinely received critical acclaim for all of his film work, but though he got roles on television through the ’80s, he never was able to break through the typecasting straightjacket that deemed him only suitable for “Asian” roles. If you remember him as all, it is probably as the brave Japanese executive shot by Allan Rickman in “Die Hard.”

I thought about Shigata when I read a piece in Salon, noting that director Woody Allen didn’t cast African-Americans in his movies, and that his explanation why didn’t justify the neglect. Prachi Gupta writes, Continue reading

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