Tag Archives: audiences

The Ethics of Singing For Muammar…No, Wait, I Mean José

Mariah-CareyIt is seldom that an ethics controversy repeats itself so exactly that I am tempted to re-run a previous post word for word with just a couple of names changed, but the flack Mariah Carey is getting from human rights activists and others for accepting a million bucks to perform for Angola’s dictator is just such an instance.

I wrote about this situation in 2011, when Nelly Furtado (and Carey) were under fire for performing for the late Muamar Gaddafi, when he was dictating to Libya.  I officially incorporate said post into this one, in full.  Just read it here, with “Mariah” substituted wherever I wrote “Nelly,” “Carey” for “Furtado,” and the name of Angola’s president, José Eduardo dos Santos, wherever the dead Libyan leader’s name appears.It all still applies. To sum up for the large percentage of people who, surveys say, can’t be bothered to click on links, it’s completely bogus criticism. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Grade The Misbehaving Celebrities!

Our subjects:

Oh, Bill...you're such a scream!

Oh, Bill…you’re such a scream!

Bill Maher, bad boy comic, political satirist and host of HBO’s “Real Time”

Maher’s fans

Ron Futrelle, former sportscaster and Las Vegas media personality

Sarah Palin, former governor, VP candidate, Fox commentator and conservative icon

All clashed over a joke made by Maher during a stand-up gig, and your challenge is to decide who gets the lowest ethics grade. Here’s what happened: Futrelle was in the audience for Maher’s show in  Las Vegas. Maher made a joke about Palin’s son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome. According to Futrelle, the joke  upset him, as well as the fact that the audience appeared to enjoy Maher’s using Palin’s innocent and mentally challenged child as a comedy topic, and laughed heartily. Futrelle began heckling Maher, eventually prompting an annoyed audience member to remind him that he was not the attraction, and suggest that he shut his gob. Futrelle persisted, and when confronted by security, left.

Through Futrelle’s blog’s account of his experience, Brietbart and the miracle of social media, Mama Grizzly Palin learned that her young son had been (again) converted into joke-fodder, and tweeted her reaction to Maher:

“Hey bully, on behalf of all kids whom you hatefully mock in order to make yourself feel big, I hope one flattens your lily white wimpy a#*.”

Our grading scale:

Exemplary ethical conduct.

Ethical and appropriate conduct that could have been better executed.

C  Acceptable conduct according to reasonable social norms

D Unethical conduct

Despicable conduct

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is, therefore, to accept this challenge:

Give Maher, Maher’s audience, Futrelle and Palin their ethics grades. Continue reading

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Hilary Swank Gets Nelly Furtadoed. And It’s Still Wrong

What's that, Mr. Kadyrof? You want me to give you a private ethics seminar for a half-million bucks? What!!! I am outraged! I spit on your filthy lucre! KIDDING!!!!!

I seriously considered taking the Ethics Alarms post on singer Nelly Furtado posted here in March and substituting actress Hilary Swank’s name for Furtado, and Chechen despot Ramzan Kadyrov for now-deceased Libya dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It is the same controversy and issue with the same result: an American performing artist sells her performing talents to a brutal foreign leader, and is bullied and shamed by human rights advocates and media critics into apologizing profusely and donating the large fee ( a million dollars in Furtado’s case, a reported half-million for Swank) to charity.

This was wrong in March, and it’s wrong today.

Earlier this month, Swank and other celebrities attended Kadyrov’s birthday bash in Chechnya. She was working. But while every other corporation and contractor, as well as the United States itself, can do business around the world without being held to the impossible standard of only accepting morally exemplary customers, Swank, like Furtado, Mariah Carey and others before her, was targeted for not doing the bidding of human rights activists and sacrificing her livelihood to be their billboard. The bully in this case in the Human Rights Foundation, which unethically brutalized Swank to achieve publicity for its own mission—a worthy one to be sure, but not so worthy that it justifies a PR mugging with a $500,000 loss to its victim. Continue reading

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The Ethics of Singing For Muammar

Sing, Nelly---and charge him through the nose.

Singer Nelly Furtado has been attacked recently for accepting a million dollars in 2007 to entertain Muammar Gaddafi and his family. The idea seems to be that, as ringingly put by screenwriter Mark Tapper,

“It is quite simply willful blindness to claim that there is no moral dimension in the choice to perform privately for a monster like Gaddafi, and in being paid exorbitantly from funds no doubt stolen from his own people, or misappropriated from foreign aid or dirty deals.”

Furtado isn’t the only one who crooned for the Libyan dictator, apparently. Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé and other performers also accepted big bucks to give Muammar and his family a good time.Furtado is donating her fee to charity in the wake of criticism like Tapper’s and Beyoncé has also donated the million that she received to charity, apologizing profusely. Mariah Carey is begging for forgiveness.

I’m glad that the stars are giving their money to worthy causes, and no doubt it is a good public relations move in a society where half-baked ethical notions become conventional wisdom before much thought has been applied to them. Nevertheless, Furtado and the rest did nothing wrong by entertaining Gaddafi. Continue reading

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“Finishing the Hat”: Sondheim, W.S. Gilbert, and Expert Malpractice

Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat” is a fascinating reflection on a remarkable career and the craft of making musicals by the greatest living master of the form. In the course of recounting his formative years, triumphs, failures, and duels with producers, authors and composers, Sondheim also critiques the lyrics of his predecessors, contemporaries and role models—as long as they are dead. In a nod to gentility or cowardice, the only living lyricist he subjects to his expert critiques is himself.

Sondheim is a tough judge, as one might expect from a composer/lyricist who meticulously measures each vowel sound and stressed syllable for maximum effect. He is also, by virtue of both his reputation and technical expertise, an influential one. The lyricists he grades highly in the book, such as Frank Loesser, Cole Porter and Dorothy Fields, are likely to have their reputations burnished by his praise, and those he slams, like Lorenz Hart and Noel Coward, will suffer by comparison. Because of this, Sondheim had an obligation, as a respected expert in his field, to make each case carefully and fairly. To his credit, Sondheim seems to recognize this, and all of his critical discussions of an individual lyricist’s style and quirks include specific examples and careful analysis. We may disagree with Sondheim as a matter of personal taste, but it is difficult to argue with his specific points, because they are backed up by examples, technical theory, and the weight of his authority.

It is therefore surprising and disappointing to see Stephen Sondheim slide into expert malpractice when he undertakes, clearly half-heartedly, a critique of the lyrics of W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. Continue reading

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