No, that wasn’t a typo: Karl Penny just achieved a first for Ethics Alarms, a Comment of the Day in response to a Comment of the Day.
The COD at issue was Gary’s assertion that he had no obligation to align his ethical preferences according to my analysis (or any other) of the “Ina Garten rejects Make A Wish” dispute, and that to him it was “just a story” that he could use or ignore according to what he chose to believe.
This inspired Karl’s excellent Comment of the Day, which also contains one passage that would justify another Ethics Alarms first, an Ethics Quote of the Week in a Comment of the Day on a Comment of the Day. I bolded it. Thanks, Karl:
“I was a participant in a discussion recently that came up during a faculty inservice session. Someone proposed that, whenever someone (authors, historical figures, etc) came up in a course, and that person was/had been a gay or lesbian, that fact should be pointed out. This would, they said, provide positive role models for students, reminding them that gays and lesbians could be great and contributing members of society.
“OK, but one of the historical figures mentioned as a lesbian was Eleanor Roosevelt. Someone pointed out that that wouldn’t be accurate, the evidence for Eleanor Roosevelt having been a lesbian being dicey, at best. It didn’t matter, said the person making the proposal. Essentially, saying that someone famous was a gay or lesbian fit a narrative, or story (see where this is going?), and that fact was less important than any concerns of factual accuracy. If Eleanor Roosevelt had not been, in truth, a lesbian, it didn’t matter because it was a story that served the purposes of a larger truth. It was, in essence, truer than true.*
“But the person making that proposal is not alone out there, as Gary just proved. This notion that objective reality must take a back seat to stories that support a somehow larger and, presumably, more virtuous truth…well, that’s a rallying cry for bigotry, if ever there was one. Ethics aren’t just subjective values, things that were once arbitrarily decided upon as good, and accepted as such ever since. They serve demonstrable, objective purposes. They allow us to live peaceably and sleep soundly at night, knowing that the world won’t fall irreparably to pieces while we do so. The Barefoot Contessa isn’t selling a story, she’s making choices, just as Enzo’s mom is making choices, and those choices can be either ethical or unethical. That’s not a story, that’s a fact.”
* Note from Ethics Alarms: The starred concept, some may recall, was the theory that initially prompted Oprah Winfrey to support author James Frey when it was first discovered that his best-selling Oprah’s Book Club selection (“A Million Little Pieces”) was not a memoir, as it represented itself, but completely fabricated. Oprah’s reaction was that the truth didn’t matter, if his inspiring story helped readers deal with their own lives. After this endorsement of lying if it makes people feel good earned Oprah her worst media criticism to date ( and an Ethics Dunce from me), she had a change of heart.