WSJ’s James Taranto Flunks His Ethics Test

A longtime Taranto fan, I was waiting for his Monday installment of his “Best of the Web” blog on te Wall Street Journal site to see if he would retract his flat-out wrong and grossly unfair characterization of the Missoula “Mikado.” Alas, he chose to double down, apparently in thrall to a conservative, Gilbert and Sullivan deprived readership:

“On Friday we noted that a theater company in Montana had inserted into its production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” a lyric calling for the beheading of Sarah Palin. By the close of business that same day, Michael McGill, executive director of MCT Inc., had announced remedial action…”

[The lyric, once again, is: “And that crazy Sarah Palin, needs a psychoanalyst!  She never would be missed.  No. She never would be missed.” Would any fair, sane, English comprehending person say that this “calls for the beheading of Sarah Palin”? Of course not.  Yet there it is.]

Thus Taranto follows a pattern I have noticed among many of the false critics of the production. They don’t seem to care what the facts are, or what is fair. They just want to rise to poor Sarah’s defense, and are willing to victimize an innocent small theater company of very nice, talented, dedicated people to do it.

Ah, James, I have misjudged you, I fear.

Now THIS is Incivility!

Michael Rausch, a 46-year-old Cherry Hill, N.J., lawyer, threw three punches at a Scranton lawyer who, he said, called him stupid and bald.

The fisticuffs occurred in July at the Lackawanna County Courthouse during a civil suit regrading a car accident. Lawyer Rausch was placed on probation, and he resigned from his law firm as a result of the incident.

Hey…what’s wrong with being called “bald”?

Ethics Train Wreck Report: Lessons, Ethical and Otherwise, of the Missoula “Mikado” Mess

Much of my weekend was occupied by reading, writing, thinking, and talking about the bizarre controversy over a community theater production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” which, by a series of misunderstandings, misdeeds, hypocrisies and journalistic malpractice, has created much anger and unhappiness for no legitimate reason at all. If you are late to the story and want to catch up, you can do so here, here, here, and here.

For the first and perhaps only time I can honestly say that Ethics Alarms is the most reliable source on a story. There may be plenty of ethicists who are more knowledgeable, scholarly, prudent and experienced than I am regarding ethics theory, but none of them knows this topic—Gilbert and Sullivan and “The Mikado”, like I do. I have 50 years experience performing, directing, studying, parodying and laughing at the works of these Victorian geniuses. The second I read the astoundingly wrong-headed interpretation being attached to the Missoula Community Theatre’s inclusion of Sarah Palin in Ko-Ko’s famous song “I’ve Got a Little List,” I surmised exactly what was going on, and my assessment has been confirmed by everything that has come to light since.

I will summarize what we now know in brief (well, briefer than reading all the posts) form:

Continue reading

The Strange Case of the Opportunistic Fugitive

The ethics call on this story is easy, though it is tempting to say otherwise.

Anthony S. Darwin was on the lam for six years in Wisconsin, eluding law enforcement authorities who were seeking to arrest him on pending charges of aggravated battery, bail jumping, battery, robbery with use of force, substantial battery and identity theft. Then he suddenly surrendered… because he realized he needed treatment for a life-threatening cancer. Continue reading

If Teachers Cheat, What Will Students To Do?

In Worcester, Mass, test scores at the Goddard School of Science and Technology have been tossed out because  school staff “reviewed student work on the assessment, coached students to add to their responses, scribed answers or portions of answers that were not worded by students, and provided scrap paper for students to use during tests,” according to the state commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

School Superintendent Melissa Dillon wanted to make sure these findings weren’t misunderstood, and wanted to make certain nobody got the idea that her teachers were cheating. “The state did not use the term cheating, so I’m not using the term cheating,” she said. School Committee members agreed. “Calling it cheating I think is a little harsh,” committee member Jack L. Foley said.  He described the problem as “probably too much coaching.” Continue reading

Unethical Journalist of the Week: Aaron Flint, of The Northern Broadcasting Network

Well, why not…before all-Mikado Saturday comes to an end, I might as well highlight this astounding example of spectacularly incompetent journalism by the Northern Broadcasting Network’s Aaron Flint, who actually posted this hilarious idiocy on his “Flint Report” (I will have to comment on the text as it goes, since there is too much nonsense to take in all at once.)

His headline: “Palin Beheaded in Missoula Play” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Next: A Version of “The Mikado” Without Execution References”

I promise I won’t do this often, but this Comment of the Day is by me, a reply to a comment by Ichneumon, which you will find at the end. I have been involved in this debate elsewhere, and a common “gotcha!” being employed against me is the argument that I jumped the gun defending the production of “The Mikado,” because I didn’t (and don’t yet) know what the exact lyrics were. I think this is worth expanding on, since Ichneumon and others have accused me of being “unethical” for calling the critics of the Palin lyric, whatever it was, ignorant.  Saturday is usually quiet, and this seems to be all that is going on other than the Middle East blowing up; by tomorrow I’m hoping to be able to move on to issues having nothing to do with Sarah Palin, Missoula, or “The Mikado.” So here is my reply to Ichneumon, with sample verses, on the original post, “Next: A Version of “The Mikado” Without Execution References”:

“The fact is, everyone from the Wall Street Journal to local websites to conservative commentators have been slapping around the production without an exact quote from the production. I am in touch with someone in the cast, and am hoping, waiting, to learn exactly what the lyric was. So what, exactly, would you have me do, when the vast majority is citing this, and only this, as the basis for its condemnation: the production put Sarah Palin, by name on Ko-Ko’s list, and this constituted a declaration that she should be killed? Continue reading

BugMeNot is Not Welcome Here

I just refused to post another comment from a reader who entered a BugMeNot e-mail address. What is BugMeNot? I wrote about it years ago on the Ethics Scoreboard, as an Unethical Website of the Month. :

“BugMeNot allows web users to access sites that require on-line registration, so they don’t have to divulge their real names, e-mail addresses or other personal information. Through BugMeNot, they share active user names and passwords for more than 130 forced-registration sites, such as the New York Times, and Washington Post sites. In other words, the site facilitates dishonesty in multiple ways. It permits users to access information from a provider without meeting the conditions required by that provider for access, and it facilitates deception, as consumers acquire entry to restricted sites by using false identities.”

I prefer that all posters here use their full names (thank you, Tim, Tom, Bob and Steven!) but I will allow single handles as long as I am given a real e-mail address. (See the conditions of commenting in the body of the page here). Getting a fake screen name from a commenter who lists a BugMeNot address is not only a violation of posted rules, but also an insult: someone who does this is bugging me. If you don’t want to post under the restrictions of Ethics Alarms, fine, but you have a lot of nerve sending in a comment with a fake e-mail address on the theory that I’m infringing on your privacy. I require some modicum of accountability from commenters, who are my cherished guests: don’t tell me I’m “bugging you” by requiring some honesty on an ethics site.

Further Ethical Musings on Ko-Ko’s Little List’s “Eliminationist Rhetoric”: the Duty to Fight the Insanity

The more I think about the controversy over the Montana production of “The Mikado,” which I discussed in the previous post, the more it bothers me.

The fact that some conservative Missoulans were disturbed by Sarah Palin’s inclusion on the iconic “little list” carried by the fictional Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic musical comedy “The Mikado” is disturbing. The fact that the Missoula Community Theater actually caved-in to ignorance and hypersensitivity and removed the lyric is more so.  but the fact that some sensible commentators, like the Wall Street Journal’s usually perceptive and witty James Taranto, have had their brains addled by the current attempt at language, metaphor and humor purging by politically correct hysterics is genuinely terrifying. Continue reading