Category Archives: Popular Culture

Have A Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, And Don’t Forget To Review The Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide Before The Annual TV Screening!

It’s right here!


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships

Comment of the Day: “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump”


Let’s get the day off to a light-hearted beginning, since it is sure to go rapidly downhill.

I love this comment by Ethics Alarms’ favorite squid, Extradimensional Cephalopod. I wish I had written it, and in fact started out to do so during the brief outbreak of Republican Presidential candidates being asked by silly reporters looking for a “gotcha!” whether they would murder Baby Adolf Hitler if they could go back in time. It is an ethics question, after all. My idea was to speculate on the possible results of such a mission using pop culture, science fiction and serious physics theories, but I rapidly discovered that a lot of research would be necessary, and the ethics nexus was deteriorating quickly. Thus I was thrilled to see EC boldly go where my boldness had failed me.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump.”

[I do have one question: is “Back to the Future” now the favored label for the category of time travel story where someone changes the future by altering the past? Not “The Terminator” or Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”? In “Back to the Future II”, we are told that altering the past creates a parallel alternate future, which I assume means that killing Baby Hitler just means that Hitler goes on his merry way, except in the new, improved, no-Hitler parallel universe. Come to think of it, “The Terminator” movies, last I checked (but I dropped out two sequels and a TV spin-off ago), suggested that the future can’t be changed, though those robots in Future Hell seem to think so.  Right?

See, this is why I gave up the first time. Heeeeeeeeere’s Extradimensional Cephalopod! Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Science & Technology

Ethics Dunces: “The Walking Dead”

Fool me once, shame on you...

Fool me once, shame on you…

The producers and writers of  AMC’s “The Walking Dead” must be all puffed up with pride, squeezing three weeks of artificially-goosed ratings by faking the death of a major character and then bringing him back safe and sound tonight as blithely as they used to do with Pearl White in the old “Perils of Pauline” serials after the previous episode ended with a buzz-saw  inches from bisecting her, or with a speeding locamotive yards away with Pearl lashed to the tracks. (No, damn you, I’m not THAT old!)

Well, they can be proud without me. I don’t appreciated any show treating me like a fool, and that’s exactly what “The Walking Dead” did with this cheapest of cheap stunts. This is drama, not “Die Hard,” not “Days of Our Lives,” and not Gilbert and Sullivan. Silly resolutions of crises are expected in those and other genres, and an audience is forewarned and consents to the absurdities to come; it’s part of the fun. “The Walking Dead,” in contrast, has presented itself as an uncompromising, raw, nihilistic survivalist study of a hopeless and deadly world where death is lurking everywhere, and even heroes (who are barely heroes anyway) aren’t safe. It is the constant threat of a horrible death that give the show its legitimacy and its characters weight.

Take that away, and the the show is pointless gore, just a special effects exhibition with a repetitious plot attached. I know most people don’t demand integrity from their elected leaders or their entertainment, but I do. The producers and writers of “The Walking Dead” think lying is cute and profitable. I supposed its ovine fans will prove them right.

I say its unethical, and I say to hell with them.

Update: Actor Steven Yuen, who plays the now miraculously alive character, said after the show aired:

“I think it proves that this world still can take that story of the good guy winning sometimes. I really like the fact that it’s not this bent of always seeking out something miserable happening on television or something terrible and sulking on that and rather just really accepting the fact that sometimes good guys survive.”

Baloney. What this proves is that this world, which knows that good guys die all the time, can be gulled into caring about the demise of a fictional character as if that character is worth caring about, when it is is in fact just a tool of commerce and emotional manipulation by a creative force that has no interest in any artistic or philosphicaltruths, only a cynical commercial one.



Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Popular Culture

More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

The bust says it all...

The bust says it all…

Really bad and dangerous ideas take hold and thrive because, like a particularly deadly virus, they pop up in so many places at once, especially dark corners and exotic locals. The current progressive contagion of airbrushing history, toppling icons and cultural bulldozing–one of several  habits of successful totalitarians being embraced by the left these days—is such an idea. As usual, defenders of this thought-inhibiting and unjust practice behave as if it is the epitome of common sense and virtue, when in truth it is the  opposite.

To the credit of the followers of the World Fantasy Award (for literature in the fantasy an horror field), the administrators’ decision to cave to political correctness and retire an H. P. Lovecraft bust (designed by black humor cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as its symbol—H.P. was like, Woodrow Wilson, a white, Western culture supremacist —was not met with universal approval. Nonetheless the Award’s head honchos did it.

They did it to mollify the social justice zealots in the organization’s midst, who insisted on sending the message that currently non-conforming ideas and beliefs should be punished decades or even centuries later by pretending that legitimate and important contributions to art, politics, science and civilization didn’t exist, if the man or woman involved stepped across a political correctness line that didn’t exist when it was stepped over. All it takes to justify eradicating any honor, recognition or symbol of cultural gratitude is for a major historical figure in any field to have been shown to have engaged in, thought about (or consorted with those who engaged in or thought about) practices that the current culture, with assistance of many years of debate and experience that the toppled never had, now finds misguided, objectionable, offensive or wrong.

The proper punishment for this retroactive crime, these spiritual brethren of Stalin believe, is banishment, rejection and shame in the very field where the individual’s positive accomplishments reside. This is necessary to keep future generations from being influenced by ideas that might trigger discomfort among true believers of the official creed.

Thus, reason doctrinaire Princeton kids who have figured out The Great Truths at their tender age, Woodrow Wilson’s major contributions of strengthening and burnishing the name of the college, leading the United States for two terms, including through a world war, and devising the concept of the United Nations, no longer warrant respect and memorial, because he was, like so many other Southerners of his time, an unapologetic white supremacist. Of course, so was Abraham Lincoln and much of the nation, but that cuts no ice with the practitioners of merciless presentism. It isn’t just the views of the long dead that are being punished, you see. It’s a warning to non-conforming thinkers alive yet. Watch out! it says. Your thoughts, inspirations and ideas are impure and wrong, and you are still vulnerable to real punishment, not just the post-mortem fate of being defiled and forgotten. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Literature, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

Tesla’s Seat Belt Recall, Moral Luck, and Ethics Chess

Jaws victim

Ethics Alarms Chief Ethics Scout Fred found this one. Tesla was alerted to one seat belt failure in its Model S, and  recalled them all. This involved a huge cost, of course, and that cost will be eventually passed on to consumers and investors. Fred asks,

“Abundance of caution” is the phrase they used, one I gather is familiar to lawyers. Could they have justified some other response that was less catastrophically expensive? Would they have had a fiduciary duty to do so? Or would that duty lie in maintaining the brand image of meticulous quality at almost any short-term cost, building a reputation that could command premium prices for decades to come?
The issue was simply this: how much did the company want to bet on moral luck? Tesla was aware of a possible design or manufacturing flaw that could kill passengers. It could have been a fluke, and it could have been widespread. If the cars were not recalled—and I don’t know enough about Teslas to presume that there would be any other way to check every single car or replace the seat belts without the expense of a recall, so I will assume for this discussion that there is not—and one or more passenger was killed, then Tesla management would have suddenly become Sheriff Brodie and Mayor Vaughn in “Jaws,” as articulated, with a slap, by the mother of a little boy who became shark bait while playing on his yellow raft. They knew there was a possible danger, and decided that chancing it was a better call than risking the summer tourist business. They balanced the risks, and did nothing.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Ethics Revelations In The Obituaries: Media Bias And “Big Al”


Ethics revelations lurk everywhere, even in the obituaries pages:

The Surprising Integrity of “Big Al”

Al Molinaro, the rumpled, large proboscused character actor best known as “Murray the cop” on TV’s “Odd Couple” and the proprietor of
the diner on “Happy Days,” where he mastered the world-weary catch phrase of “Yeeeaaahh, yeah-yeah-yeah…,” died last week at the advanced age of 96. In his Washington Post obituary, I gained new admiration for Al. (I was always an Arnold (Pat Morita) man, myself, and if you don’t understand that reference, good for you. You ignored “Happy Days.”) At the end of Al’s obit, there was this…

“In 1990, Mr. Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work.

“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Molinaro said. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself.”

Now that’s integrity, and in show business, of all places. Our culture remains civil and benign only if we are willing to fight for it, or at least withhold our assistance as it deteriorates. Molinaro had the courage and integrity to accept this civic duty, Few among as do, and actors—especially specialty character actors like Al, almost never do. I remember that Mel Brooks harbored dreams of getting John Wayne to play “The Waco Kid” in “Blazing Saddles,” and said that he ran in to the Duke and talked him into reading the screenplay.  Wayne called him the next day and told Brooks that he loved the script, but that he couldn’t take the role. “It’s too dirty,” he said. “I’m John Wayne!” But he said he laughed all night as he read it, and promised to be “at the head of the line” when it opens. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

World Series Ethics: His Decision Didn’t Work, But Mets Manager Terry Collins Was Right

KC wins

The end of the baseball season is traumatic for me, except for those few years that ended in Boston Red Sox championships, and those two golden glow seasons (1967 and 1975), when the team lost at the end but fought such a good fight that it felt like they had won. In my house we refer to the days between the end of the World Series and the beginning of Spring Training as The Dark Time.

On the plus side, I have about three more hours every day to do something productive.

For the second consecutive year, baseball ended with an ethics conundrum in its final game. Last night, as the Kansas City Royals battled back from a late deficit again (they had done so in the previous game as well) to take the Series four games to one,against the New York Mets at Citi Field, the topics were trust, courage, leadership, and most of all, consequentialism. The latter is to baseball as apple pie—or baseball— is to America.

Let me set the stage. The Royals, having stolen the previous game from the Mets’ grasp by an unlikely 8th inning rally (the Mets lost one game all season when they were leading in the 8th; they lost two such games in this five game series). With their backs against the wall (on the short end of a 3-1 game tally, the Mets had to win last night to avoid elimination), the New York sent their ace, the remarkable Matt Harvey, to the mound to do what aces do: win. Harvey had it all last night. After eight innings, the Royals hadn’t scored.  Harvey looked fresh in the eighth, and got the Royals out without surrendering a baserunner.

All season long, with a close game after eight innings, Mets manager Terry Collins would tell his starter to take a seat and let his closer finish the game. This is standard practice now: complete games by starting pitchers are a rarity. Once, not too long ago, the league leader in that category would be in double figures. Now the top is usually about five. Moreover, nobody cares. The best teams have 9th inning specialists who almost never lose one-run leads, much less two, and the Mets had a great one, Jeurys Familia.

After Harvey’s dominant eighth, the Fox cameras recorded the drama unfolding in the Mets dugout. Collins’ pitching coach told Harvey that his night was done and Familia, as usual, would close out the game. Harvey pushed past the coach to confront his manager, passionately. Let me finish it, he insisted. The game is mine. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, Sports