I almost made this controversy an ethics quiz in July, but decided it was a fleeting jest. Wrong, Ethics-breath! Now the story has heated up again.
Paisano’s, an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico is selling ‘black olives matter” T- shirts and caps following the uproar over the phrase last month, when the restaurant placed it on a marquee outside the restaurant in July:
Then, owner Rick Camuglia said he came up with the play on words to sell a new tuna dish with black olive tapenade. When Camuglia posted pictures of the dish and the sign on Facebook, he drew angry complaints that he was being insensitive and “trivializing a movement aimed at trying to stop police shootings of black residents.”
Even if they are resisting lawful arrest, threatening the officer or holding a gun. But I digress…
Camuglia protested that he was only trying to sell food. Now, after receiving unexpected support, even internationally, and with business booming, the entrepreneur has reacted to requests for souvenirs from the restaurant with his new product line.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Are the slogan, T-shirts and hats inherently disrespectful and divisive at a racially troubled time, and thus socially irresponsible, or is it a harmless play on words?
I think you probably know what my position is, since Ethics Alarms has included more than a few parodies and riffs on the phrase “black lives mattes,” and will not hesitate to use more. This is satire, pure as it can be. There are no quotes or phrases so sacred and full of significance that they cannot be parodied with humorous effect. Does “we have nothing to fear but beer itself” mock the dead of Pearl Harbor? Don’t be an idiot: of course not. How about Monty Python’s “Blessed are the cheesemakers”..
Does that mock Christianity or wound the Sermon on the Mount? (Well, a lot of angry Christian groups said so when “The Life of Brian” came out, and they missed a wonderful movie, and that kick-line on the crosses…)
Even when a phrase deserves respect, as “black lives matter” does not, given the groups that brandish it and the viral lie that gave it birth, clever wordplay or satire are not precluded by any ethical principle, and no, the fact that some identifiable group may be offended by it isn’t such a principle. Nor is this covered by the Niggardly Principles because there isn’t an inoffensive—to those determined to be offended—slogan that will have the same beneficial impact for Paisano’s, or cause as many people to laugh or smile, which is also a good thing. I believe the owner when he says he was not and is not making a political statement.
I checked Ethics Alarms to see if I had covered a similar controversy, because I knew you would, and if I wasn’t consistent, I would get it with both barrels. A year ago, I analyzed the uproar when Under Armour advertised a “Band of Ballers” tee-shirt showing a silhouette of men in backwards baseball caps raising a basketball hoop in the iconic pose of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, in which combat weary soldiers are frozen in the act of raising an American flag after the Marines’ bloody victory at Iwo Jima. Here was that shirt:
From the post:
“But some indignant veterans who have nothing better to do than fire off e-mails expressing their dislike of apparel that was neither designed for them, intended for them, or forced upon them, objected vociferously, so Under Armour made the shirt unavailable to those who wanted to buy it, pulling it off the market with a craven series of tweets that said…
“Under Armour has the utmost respect and admiration for active duty service men and women and veterans who have served our country. We deeply regret and apologize the release of a shirt that is not reflective of our commitment to support & honor our country’s heroes We have taken the necessary steps to remove this shirt, and any related shirts, from all retail and ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Ensure that what doesn’t happen again? Historical references? Parodies? Humor? Irreverence? A sports apparel company daring to compare the “combat” of playground hoops to real combat?”…
“Under Armour is the sole guilty party here—someone is going to complain about anything and everything now— as is every company, corporation, celebrity, university, sports franchise and school district that caves in to censorship efforts when there has been no legitimate offense. They take the path of least resistance, rather than stand up for expressive freedom, as is their duty as citizens in our society. That is ironic, when you think about it. My favorite fatuous complaint about the tee-shirt was from a tweeter who wrote,
“6,281 men didn’t die at Iwo Jima so you could sell a “Band of Ballers” t-shirt.”
“Actually, you moron, they did.”
Hey, I LIKE that post!
I like “black olives matter,” too (though I don’t like black olives). Black Lives Matter should be no more immune from parody and satire than any other phrase, group or movement, especially obvious and light-hearted satire like this.
Addendum: I can’t let this pass. The comment sections on this story give classic examples of how so much of the public is incapable of critics and dispassionate thought, and what Ethics Alarms tries to promote just isn’t on the map. Here was a comment that came after one that pronounced the slogan as “the sickness of capitalism incarnate”:
Ask the owner if he’s got the stones to come up with some other form of anti-PC slogan. Perhaps some #BlueLivesMatter Cubano sandwiches – you know the kind that has roast pork, ham and bacon on them…….3 kinds of dead pig on a bun. IF the owner is willing to do that, then I’ll believe he’s being truly anti-PC. IF not, then he’s just pandering to the inbred hickbilly racist StormTrumper crowd.