Roland Martin and the Tragedy of Racism

I'll say this: Roland was less irritating than Soledad O'Brien...

I’ll say this: Roland was less irritating than Soledad O’Brien…

CNN has been engaged in either a purge or a make-over in recent weeks, depending on one’s point of view. One of the talking heads given the gate was Roland Martin, who describes himself on his blog as “a dynamic and engaging journalist.” Upon getting the bad news, Martin, who is African-American, took a hard look at his own career and abilities, applied an objective analysis, and concluded…that CNN was racist. He told the Huffington Post:

“You have largely white male executives who are not necessarily enamored with the idea of having strong, confident minorities who say, ‘I can do thisWe deliver, but we never get the big piece, the larger salary – to be able to get from here to there.”

Martin cited as proof the fact that when he guest-hosted a show for the network, the ratings didn’t drop: “If it’s a ratings game, and we won, how is it I never got a show?”

This is the permanent handicap a legacy of racism in the U.S. culture and the workplace bestows on American blacks. Not necessarily discrimination, but the impossibility of ever knowing whether discrimination and not legitimate factors have been the reason for a career setback, a failure, or the inability to advance. It is potentially crippling if the African-American, like Martin, uses the doubts created to relieve him of the duty of honest self-assessment, and to block him from the responsible course of rededicating himself to improving his skills and marketability. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Moses (Charlton Heston) in “The Ten Commandments”

The evil that men should turn their brothers into beasts of burden, to be stripped of spirit, and hope, and strength – only because they are of another race, another creed. If there is a god, he did not mean this to be so.

—-Moses, as played by Charlton Heston and scripted by seven writers, in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.” answering to the Pharoah Seti’s question, “Then why are you forcing me to destroy you? What evil has done this to you?”

The Ten Commandments“The Ten Commandments” is so extravagantly fun and entertaining that, I must confess, I never watched it as an ethics film until tonight, as ABC once again broadcast the Biblical epic on an Easter weekend. This quote especially struck me as remarkable for a film made by an infamously rigid conservative, DeMille, in 1956.

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. The next twelve months were tense, difficult days in which the entire U.S. population was undergoing a wrenching cultural debate regarding human rights.  On Dec. 6, 1955, the civil rights boycott, led by Marin Luther King, of Montgomery city buses began. January 1956 saw Autherine Lucy, a black woman, accepted for classes at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the first African-American ever allowed to enroll.  On Jan. 30, the home of Martin Luther King, Jr. was bombed in Montgomery. February 4 saw rioting and violence on the campus of the University of Alabama and in the streets of Tuscaloosa. Lucy had to flee the campus, and the university’s Board of Trustees barred her from returning. On the 22nd of that month, warrants were  issued for the arrest of the 115 leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. A week later, courts ordered Lucy readmitted, but the school expelled her. Continue reading

Jordan Sheard And The No-Capital Punishment Slippery Slope

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

One of these days, when CNN’s designated miracle-worker Piers Morgan (because making Larry King look brilliant is a miracle) is extolling the superiority of the land of his birth over the stupid, violent, individual rights-obsessed U.S., someone should ask him about Jordan Sheard. Sheard, a sadistic 20-year old bully, set his sights on a young gay man, Steven Simpson, whose offenses included, in addition to his sexual orientation,  a speech impediment, epilepsy and having Asperger’s  Syndrome. Sheard forced Simpson to strip down to his underwear and wrote gay slurs over his body, covered him with tanning oil, and set him on fire.

At his birthday party. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things? That’s not who we are. That’s not who we are. And I want to make sure every American is listening today…Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”

—-President Obama, at a White House event designed to re-energize the push for stricter gun control laws.


Right back at you, Mr. President.

Right back at you, Mr. President.

Shame on the President…for not only making a facile, lowest-common-denominator appeal for gun control regulations, but for implying that policy should be made in the heat of emotional rather than after rational debate and analysis, looking at all sides of an issue, rather than just the most sensational.

Shame on the President…for insulting principled opponents of the Democrat’s irresponsible, hysterical and cynical effort to portray the complex issue of fire arms regulation as a matter of “saving the children” by accusing them of forgetting the horrendous massacre of toddlers at Newtown.

Shame on the President…for dishonestly suggesting that the measures under consideration, good and bad, would have necessarily done anything to prevent the Sandy Hook rampage by a deranged killer. If it would not, then why is the date of the event, whether it was 10, 100, or 1000 days ago, relevant to anything? Investigators found that Adam Lanza had a 28 inch Samurai sword in his arsenal. How many children might he have killed in the same amount of time with that, rather than his assault rifle? Watch “Kill Bill, Part I” and get back to me. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: SB Nation Contributor Bill Hanstock

Amazingly, this is the actual size of Bill Hanstock's head!

Amazingly, this is the actual size of Bill Hanstock’s head!

The article on SB Nation is called “White people celebrate Heat loss in exceedingly white fashion,” and consists of the writer, a guy named Bill Hanstock, whose article more effectively made me detest an author than any piece I’ve read in a long time, mocking individual spectators at the Chicago Bulls -Miami Heat NBA game (which ended that team’s epic winning streak) based on their faces, their choice of clothes, their beverages, their accessories, their ages, their hair (or lack of it), and most of all, their race.

The instant verdict here: not only is the article unfunny and unethical, not only should SB Nation’s editor be sacked for allowing such garbage to pollute the site and the web, but Hanstock is, to put it mildly, a virulent jerk. Continue reading

To: FBI, Re: Roswell…If You Can’t Do Better Than This, Please Shut Up.

fbi-ufo-memo-lgThis is exactly the kind of thing that causes the American public to distrust its government, not to mention believing all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories.

For reasons unknown, the FBI, apparently in need of fresh content for its website, decided to “explain” the remarkable memo in its files that has been cited as the “smoking gun” of a Roswell cover-up. The memo, send to FBI director J.Edgar Hoover in 1950, was not written by a crackpot but by Guy Hottel, then the head of the FBI field office in Washington, D.C. He wrote,

“An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico,” Hottel writes. “They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed fliers and test pilots.”

Now, whatever this is, an explanation was and is in order. The memo was not made public until 2011, and to say it raises questions is a masterpiece of understatement. If this didn’t happen, why was the memo written? If it did happen, what was the government’s response? If Hottel and Hoover didn’t know whether it was true or not, what did they do about it? If the FBI investigated, what did it find out?

Instead of answering any of these questions, the FBI website this week posted this about the memo:

“A few facts to keep in mind:

“First, the Hottel memo isn’t new. It was first released publicly in the late 1970s and had been posted on the FBI website for several years prior to the launch of the Vault.

“Second, the Hottel memo is dated nearly three years after the infamous events in Roswell in July 1947. There is no reason to believe the two are connected. The FBI file on Roswell (another popular page) is posted elsewhere on the Vault.

“Third, as noted in an earlier story, the FBI has only occasionally been involved in investigating reports of UFOs and extraterrestrials. For a few years after the Roswell incident, Director Hoover did order his agents—at the request of the Air Force—to verify any UFO sightings. That practice ended in July 1950, four months after the Hottel memo, suggesting that our Washington Field Office didn’t think enough of that flying saucer story to look into it.

“Finally, the Hottel memo does not prove the existence of UFOs; it is simply a second- or third-hand claim that we never investigated. Some people believe the memo repeats a hoax that was circulating at that time, but the Bureau’s files have no information to verify that theory.

“Sorry, no smoking gun on UFOs. The mystery remains…”

What? Continue reading

Now THAT’S Unethical…But Funny! And Weirdly Satisfying…

Attack of the Fridge

Danny the Fridge stalks his prey…

[UPDATE: This story was, it now turns up, just another hoax. Fred Phelps doesn’t even have a son. I hate web hoaxes, whether I’m sucked in by them or not. But I’m cutting this one a little dispensation, because I needed a good laugh, and this sure provided it. ]

I am awash in shame. Since early this morning I have been bursting into uncontrollable laughter at another human being’s pain, as he was subjected to an experience of unimaginable existential and surreal horror. It is schadenfreude beyond question, not unethical in itself—feelings are not unethical—but taking joy in the misfortune of others is not a sound foundation for ethical conduct.

I’m not going to rationalize this: I should feel sympathy for the victim. Nonetheless, and even though he was attacked without provocation, and for exercising his First Amendment rights, there are some unusual mitigating circumstances:

  • The victim was David Phelps, son of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church infamy.
  • He was ranting on during a radio interview in a mobile studio, and had just said, “God hates fags.”
  • Suddenly, a 500 pound naked man known as “Billy the Fridge” burst out of a bathroom roaring, “Leviathan! Leviathan!” (see, now I’m laughing again: I’m a horrible person…) and..
  • …proceeded to sit on Phelps, saying, “Who’s your Daddy now, Davey?”
  • An eye-witness later claimed that he saw Phelps being pursued down the street outside the mobile studio by a naked fat man.

That last part was the one that got me. There, see, I’m laughing again.

We have been puzzling about what to do about the Westboro Baptist Church and its disgusting ritual of shouting anti-gay epithets at the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, and I admit that having a 500 pound naked fat man sit on him never occurred to me. I can’t condone it; it is assault and battery, and both a crime and a tort. Nor is it ever ethical, if you are a 500 pound fat man, to chase someone down a street. Indeed, it is arguably not even ethical to be a 500 pound naked fat man, at least in public. It is certainly wrong for any of us to sanction such behavior by cheering it on, or doing anything to encourage other naked obese people to ambush, sit on and pursue members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Just wrong.

And now I’m laughing again.

I’m so ashamed.


Pointer: Fark

Facts andGraphic: The Daily Mail