Tag Archives: Woody Allen

My Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) Post: “Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly”

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney...

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney…

Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense  of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

 

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

Continue reading

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Filed under Science & Technology, Government & Politics, History, Health and Medicine, Etiquette and manners, Research and Scholarship, Gender and Sex

What A Hollywood Journalist Calls “Ethics”

Listen to me, Roger, and I mean this in the nicest way: stick to gossip.

Listen to me, Roger, and I mean this in the nicest way: stick to gossip.

The Hollywood wagons are already circling around Woody Allen, accused—again, but now as an adult who can speak for herself—by Dylan Farrow of sexually abusing her when she was only 7 years old. Reading some of the statements issuing from Tinseltown, I am struck again by the ugly opposition any non-celebrity victim must face when accusing a powerful industry figure of wrongdoing. Luckily, many of the most vociferous defenders signal their desperation and their lack of basic comprehension of the issues, undermining their arguments.

Exhibit A is veteran Hollywood journalist Roger Friedman, who was quick to issue an article alleging, as he has for 20 years, that Dylan’s story is all part of a Mia Farrow plot to destroy innocent Woody. On his website, Friedman headlines his piece, “Mia Farrow Uses Close Pal Journalist in Woody Allen War: Writer of Latest Piece is Close Friend.” Friedman’s concept of what constitutes a “conflict of interest” is intriguing. His argument is that Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, who published Dylan’s open letter on his blog, is friends with Mia Farrow (Friedman implies that they are romantically involved while specifically saying that he isn’t implying it–his evident journalistic sliminess would undermine even a fair article, which this is not), and that this makes Dylan’s letter less credible. What he doesn’t explain, since he can’t, is why the same letter would be any more credible or reliable whether Kristof published it or someone else did. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions

Ethics Hero: Dylan Farrow (and Observations On Her Open Letter To Woody Allen’s Fans)

dylan-farrow

Dylan Farrow was 7 years old when, she alleges, her adoptive father Woody Allen began sexually molesting her. Although this became the focus of the legal and public relations battle between her mother, actress Mia Farrow and Allen as their once romantic and domestic relationship—-already destroyed by Allen’s courtship, seduction and marriage of Dylan’s older, also-adopted sister Soon Yi—exploded onto the scandal sheets more than 20 years ago, the now-married Dylan has never spoken out about it herself, though her mother and other siblings have. Allen avoided any criminal charges despite an investigation that found probable cause, and his popularity among film-goers and his stature in Hollywood seemed to be undamaged. Last month, however, a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes (accepted by a fawning Diane Keaton) re-opened the unhealed wounds for the Farrows, and Allen’s Oscar nomination last week for his original screenplay for “Blue Jasmine” was apparently too much.

Now Dylan Farrow has decided to tell her own story, and has done so in open letter form, published on the blog of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

I ask that you read it now, here, before you read anything else. Her courage in writing this powerful statement earns the right to have it received on its own terms.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Heroes, Family, Gender and Sex

Ethics Hero: Stanford Law Prof. Pamela Karlan, Pulling A McLuhan

One of the funniest moments in Woody Allen’s Academy Award-winning comedy “Annie Hall” is the classic scene in which Woody squelches a pompous know-it-all standing in line behind him at a movie theater. The man is holding forth on film criticism and finally begins pontificating on the theories of Marshall McCluhan, a Sixties media scholar most famous for the quote, “The media is the message.”  Woody acts out everyone’s fantasy who has had to listen to strangers blather on about topics they aren’t qualified to discuss by magically producing the real McCluhan to confront the man. “You know nothing of my work!,” McLuhan tells the shocked pedant.

Today Stanford law professor pulled a McCluhan on none other than George Will, who, she pointed out in a letter to the Washington Post, recently used her law review article to bolster his position by substantially misrepresenting—or misunderstanding–what it actually said:

“Mr. Will’s column distorted my Harvard Law Review article in details both large and small. Yes, the Framers of our Constitution intended to limit the federal government’s power to protect liberty. But they also crafted the new Constitution to empower the government to deal with critical problems. For much of our history, the Supreme Court recognized congressional resourcefulness as a source of our nation’s strength. By looking only to James Madison and 1787, Mr. Will ignored the post-Civil War 14th Amendment, which explicitly authorizes Congress to enforce guarantees of liberty and equality.

“As for my discussion of the court’s Citizens United ruling, I did not attack “spending by outside groups,” as Mr. Will wrote. Rather, I pointed out only that there has been a significant increase in such spending (much of it in forms that leave voters in the dark as to who bankrolled the messages they hear) and that reasonable people can disagree about whether this is good for democracy.

“Finally, for someone who prides himself on his linguistic precision, Mr. Will’s attack is particularly tone-deaf. “Disdain” means “scorn” or “contempt.” Nothing in my article expresses scorn or contempt for the court or for judicial review. I — like many other Americans, including some of their colleagues and many of their predecessors — simply disagree strongly with the approach some justices have taken and the conclusions they have reached in some recent cases.”

Take that, George! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Heroes, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue

Gov, Beverly Perdue: Aspiring dictator? Ultra-Dry comedian? Doorstop?

As the United States struggles to solve a myriad of entrenched systemic problems—the list, according to NYT columnist David Brooks: “the lack of consumer demand, the credit crunch, the continuing slide in housing prices, the freeze in business investment, the still hefty consumer debt levels and the skills mismatch,not to mention regulatory burdens, the business class’s utter lack of confidence in the White House, the looming explosion of entitlement costs, the public’s lack of confidence in institutions across the board”…he may have missed one or two—it is alarming how many prominent individuals have announced their readiness to abandon representative democracy or part of it. Even the President himself has wistfully said that he wishes he could bypass Congress. His former budget director, Peter Orszag, has an essay in the current New Republic is which he calls for “less democracy.” Hollywood liberals have been quick to follow this theme; Woody Allen told an overseas journalist that the United States would be better off if Obama could be a benevolent dictator.

I think this is playing with fire and  irresponsible in the extreme, particularly given the last item in Brooks’s list. This position is especially irresponsible when it comes from elected officials in high offices, and thus it isn’t surprising that when Nouth Carolina’s Democratic governor, Beverly Perdue, told a rotary club event in Cary, N.C. … Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Professions, U.S. Society

Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly

"Andy Hardy, the Asian Years"

A Bronx woman, Ursula Liang, has started a petition against Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Movies With A View” series showing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic that gave us “Moon River” and one of actress Hepburn’s most endearing performances. Why? Well, the movie, which has long been popular for summer screenings in New York City and elsewhere, also contains a pre-political correctness performance by Mickey Rooney as Holly Golightly’s comic Japanese neighbor, “Mr. Yunioshi.”

Rooney’s performance, in my opinion, was cringe-worthy even in 1961, one of director Blake Edwards’ not uncommon excesses in vaudeville humor, placed in a context where it didn’t belong. It is a scar on an otherwise marvelous film, but there is nothing inherently wrong with comic stereotypes. Stereotypes are a staple of comedy, and have been forever; the question is whether a particular stereotype is cruel, gratuitous, harmful, or funny. Some stereotypes are cruel and funny. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, History, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Setting the Fairness Alarm For Congressman Weiner

Set alarm to "Unfair".

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is embroiled in a strange and distasteful controversy arising from the receipt by a young woman of a tweet from Weiner’s Twitter account including a photograph of a man’s provocatively bulging underwear–with both the garment and the bulge-producing contents allegedly belonging to the Representative.  Such situations require the media, the public, political allies and foes alike to set their ethics alarms to “Fairness,” because being unfair is so easy and seductive.  If your ethics alarms are properly calibrated, here is what should feel fair and unfair to Congressman Weiner.

Unfair: Assuming he sent the photo. He is a Congressman, an elected representative of the nation’s legislature. Just because other Congressmen (now ex-Congressmen) have, within memory, sent shirtless photos of themselves over the internet to troll for sex and giddily described having “tickle fights” with staff members does not have any probative value regarding what Rep. is or is not capable of doing. He claims his account was hacked as a prank. He deserves the benefit of the doubt until there are legitimate reasons to question his credibility on this issue. Even then, I think we owe it to him and our faith in democracy to begin with the assumption that a member of the U.S. House of Representatives couldn’t possibly be so crude, irresponsible and stupid as to send a photo of his crotch to a young woman. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, The Internet

The Unethical Consequences of Ethical Coffee

"Mmmmmmm! Smells ethical!"

When ethical conduct becomes too complicated, confusing, or controversial, the vast majority of people will shrug and give up, leaving the conduct to be embraced by fanatics who can be relied upon to argue among themselves about who is really being ethical.   Welcome to the world of so-called ethical coffee, where adherents must choose between a dizzying number of certifications and categories to ensure that their coffee purchases support ethical practices and objectives.

“Shouldn’t the dollars you spend support the values you believe in?,” chirps the home page of EthicalCoffee.com. “Fortunately, when it comes to the morning cup of coffee so many of us love, it’s easier to put your money where your conscience is than with any other commodity. (Just try to find a gas station that can certify that the gasoline you’re putting in your tank isn’t linked to environmental disasters or labor abuses halfway around the world.) With coffee, you can pay a little more and know the grower is getting a minimum price or be sure you’re helping preserve winter habitat for some of the same songbirds that will show up next summer in your back yard.”

Hey, sounds great! Love those song birds! Then comes the “but’… Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Environment, Popular Culture, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ensign Scandal Revelations: Sen. Coburn’s Betrayal

Oh dear, Sen. Coburn...didn't anyone tell you that corruption is contagious?

The bipartisan Senate committee, investigating the sexual harassment/ extortion/ lobbying scandals that led Sen John Ensign (R-Nev.) to resign his seat issued its report this week. It found “substantial credible evidence that provides substantial cause to conclude that Senator Ensign violated Senate Rules and federal civil and criminal laws, and engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate, thus betraying the public trust and bringing discredit to the Senate.” The committee referred the matter to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

The report also found, however, that another Republican Senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, was hip-deep in the  mess, serving as an intermediary between Ensign and his top aide, Doug Hampton, who was in the process of extorting  Ensign  for having an affair with Hampton’s wife. Sen. Coburn also played a central role in arranging for Ensign’s parents to cough up the hush money to satisfy Hampton’s demands.  Whether Coburn knew about the more serious offenses that Ensign seems to have committed, such as lying to investigators and using his influence to create business for Hampton’s lobbying firm as part of the pay-off for Ensign sleeping with Hampton’s wife, is unknown, but never mind: helping with the cover-up is bad enough. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, U.S. Society