Note To Conservatives On The “Hamilton” Cast’s Harassment Of Mike Pence: I’ve Got This. You’re Not Helping.

grandstand-hamilton

The problem is that, as you might guess, Trump-supporting Republican and conservatives are as ethically clueless as the Democrats attacking them.

Now there is a backlash against the “Hamilton” actors who singled out an audience member (who happened to be the Vice-President Elect) for specific abuse last week, because, the theory goes, elected officials who a cast doesn’t like shouldn’t be able to attend live theater without entailing the risk of being harassed. Ethics Alarms has been very clear about why this is wrong in every way, and all rebuttals have boiled down to “But we don’t like Mike Pence or Donald Trump, so we should be able to suspend ethics!”

Keep telling yourselves that.

Now it has been discovered that some of the “Hamilton” grandstanders probably didn’t vote in the election, and the actor whose mouth was used to issue the lecture to Pence had himself authored some Trump-like misogynist  rhetoric in a tweet or two. This is supposed to prove hypocrisy, and undermine the legitimacy of the cast’s ambush.

It doesn’t do this, because the cast’s stunt had no legitimacy at all, votes or not, hypocrisy or not.

Is the whole Trump term going to be like this? I fear so, since the incoming President literally is bewildered by all concepts ethical, and his defenders appear to be similarly disabled.

Look: if it is per se unethical and wrong for a theatrical production to turn on audience members without consent or warning to humiliate, threaten or accost them, the qualifications of the cast members engaging in this harassment can’t make the unethical act more or less so.

If you argue that the “Hamilton” cast was more unethical because it contained such dedicated patriots that they couldn’t be bothered to vote, or because its spokesman had referred to women as “ho’s” in some tweets, then you are also saying that the ambush would have been more ethical if they all had voted and Brandon Dixon was a sensitive feminist beyond reproach. That means, to go a step further, that if the cast had spent its non-performing time volunteering for Hillary and if Dixon was a renowned lecturer on feminism and on the legal foundation for liberal refugee policy, their stunt would have been more ethical still.

NO! Harassing an audience member from the stage is completely wrong, and who does it doesn’t change the nature of the conduct or make it better or worse. Nobody should do it. No audience member should have to endure it, regardless of whether he is a candidate for sainthood, or the scum of the earth. Conservatives making the case against the cast members individually are just as ethically misguided as the cast itself and its progressive defenders.

And that’s not all.

There is a tax law that helps Broadway’s perilous financial state by allowing Broadway show backers to avoid paying taxes on production income during the show’s first year. The provision is up for renewal next year, and needs Republican votes to pass. “Ha Ha!” say the conservative warriors to “Hamilton.” “Now you’ve screwed your own industry!”

Ugh.

1. If the tax break is good policy, Republicans should vote for it. If it isn’t, they shouldn’t vote for it even if the Hamilton cast invited Pence back stage for a hot tub party. It’s called integrity. Vengeance isn’t ethical.

2. If the Pence ambush was unethical on its own, and it was, its effect on GOP votes in Congress doesn’t matter.

3. If the Pence ambush was the courageous example of civic engagement that its defenders claimed it to be, why would it be ethical for the production to do otherwise to protect a tax break? That’s something Donald Trump would do!

Is ethics really this hard?

Because I’m getting discouraged…

16 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

16 responses to “Note To Conservatives On The “Hamilton” Cast’s Harassment Of Mike Pence: I’ve Got This. You’re Not Helping.

  1. Frank Stephens

    A good reminder. Thank you.

  2. wyogranny

    Yes ethics is this hard. Sixty-two rationalizations with sub-categories should tell you it’s this hard. It’s not made easier by the fact that many ethicists have a weak grasp of ethics. Human nature is not particularly ethical. It has to be taught and it has to be learned, and there has to be a convincing argument that it’s worth the trouble.

  3. Jeff H.

    This is turning into your own little Mikado thing…

  4. Jennifer Cameron

    First, I do not believe that the cast of Hamilton was wrong let alone abusive. The act of acknowledging a “famous” person in the audience is not exclusive to this cast.
    As a member of the theater community I am actually quite amazed at your stance on this. The theater has been a place that has addressed issues of the times. It has often questioned issues and spoken out. Both onstage and off. This production itself represents that example. It took something from the past and made it relevant to the issues of today.. highlighting diversity.
    In the message to Pence there was no harassment, the message was polite and articulate. There was no message of hate. It simply asked, this representative of a campaign/ presidency that has, in fact not been very kind to the idea of diversity, to please remember the diversity of the country and to please represent the interests of everyone.
    How is that abusive or harassment? Is the problem only that it was asked publically vs privately? They only asked for something many Americans are concerned won’t happen. And the concern is not exclusive to race,but also women, healthcare and certain financial classes. Representation has to include everyone, not just the folks you like. And the current group coming in has already shown this won’t necessarily be the case.

    • wyogranny

      “Representation has to include everyone, not just the folks you like.”
      This.
      This is not a conclusion held in high esteem by any group, right or left, today. With the possible exception of some religions.
      One way to check oneself on this is to imagine the same thing happened to the group or person you favor. And to imagine it in the broad context of society as it currently exists. Not just oneself and how you feel about it.
      If one can say an action is universally ethical or unethical and apply judgement even-handedly not through a personal lens then one might be getting closer to at least understanding why people react the way they do.

      I’m using one instead of you because I’m not intending to point at anyone, just making an observation. I’ve had to stand away from myself and observe the world a lot lately. Frankly, I don’t hold out very much hope for any politician “representing” everyone. I just hope someone somewhere can represent decency and calmness. Actually, a lot of someones and a lot of somewheres.

    • First, I do not believe that the cast of Hamilton was wrong let alone abusive. The act of acknowledging a “famous” person in the audience is not exclusive to this cast.

      Belief has nothing to do with it. FACT: Pence was an audience member, and there is no distinction among audience members in the theater. FACT: You cannot point me to a single example of where another prominent figure was lectured after a performance. FACT: Acknowledging a famous member of an audience is very different from criticizing him, but even then, it is not appropriate without prior consent.

      As a member of the theater community I am actually quite amazed at your stance on this.

      That’s because the average member of the theater community is clueless regarding ethics, of theater or anything else. I’m not. I am also consistent. I have made it clear that Colin Kaepernick’s on-field protests are similarly unethical. Ticket buyers don’t pay for this, and if this is what they are going to get, they must be asked and warned.

      The theater has been a place that has addressed issues of the times. It has often questioned issues and spoken out. Both onstage and off.

      So what? The issue here is targeting a single audience member, AFTER the performance, misusing the stage to do it. If this was normal, it wouldn’t have been news. It was not normal. It was extraordinary.

      This production itself represents that example. It took something from the past and made it relevant to the issues of today.. highlighting diversity.

      Again, changing the subject. You think there are special rules for “Hamilton”? Ethics doesn’t work that way. Special rules for THIS cast, special rules for Pence! How convenient!

      In the message to Pence there was no harassment, the message was polite and articulate.

      Look, Jennifer, read the other posts I wrote. I have repeatedly dealt with this especially bad argument. If a butcher decides to criticize me in a supermarket in front of everyone, he’s still out of line, and it’s still harassment, regardless of how polite he is about it.

      There was no message of hate. It simply asked, this representative of a campaign/ presidency that has, in fact not been very kind to the idea of diversity, to please remember the diversity of the country and to please represent the interests of everyone.
      How is that abusive or harassment?

      How is being individually singled out, without consent, by a prepared speech, in a crowd, where your role was not official or personal but for relaxation and recreation, for personal and official criticism, in front of a hostile audience, when you are in a confined space?

      Definition of harassment: n. the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group. Got that? Was it systematic? YES, it was planned. Was it unwanted? Annoying? YES and YES. By a group. Bingo! Harassment.

      They only asked for something many Americans are concerned won’t happen. And the concern is not exclusive to race,but also women, healthcare and certain financial classes. Representation has to include everyone, not just the folks you like. And the current group coming in has already shown this won’t necessarily be the case.

      Boy, are the defenders of this being dense. WHAT was the message, WHY it was done, etc. etc….Doesn’t justify doing it. You can’t even make a decent utilitarian case, because it accomplished noting constructive. It ass nothing to the debate. Mistreating Pence when all he asked to do was be treated like shows are supposed to treat ticket buyers isn’t going to change his mind or conduct. At best its going to alienate people. it’s pointless. Grandstanding.

  5. “Now it has been discovered that some of the ‘Hamilton’ grandstanders probably didn’t vote in the election, and the actor whose mouth was used to issue the lecture to Pence had himself authored some Trump-like misogynist rhetoric in a tweet or two.”

    ‘St. Patty’s day weekend is like Christmas for black dudes who like white chicks. Happy holidays boys?’

    The Donald depicted rape culture/religious bigotry/ethnically/racially/sexist insensitivity in one fell swoop like that?

    Whoa Nellie! If that’s the case, I find this so disturbing I’m considering leaving the country.

    Which I could essentially do by simply vacating the municipality of my residence; The 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality.

  6. While using “you” was not meant personally outside of referencing your theater history I acknowledge that using “one” would have been far more appropriate .
    Yes it’s true that people yell when “their” group is being slighted. That’s human nature.
    In this particular case, I would have no objection to a statement or question directed articulately and politely to anyone.
    These people were neither disrespectful or inflammatory.
    The responses,particularly Pres elect Trumps made it inflammatory.

    • The fact that you say you would have no problem with it is irrelevant. Most people would: the New York theater critic said HE would. I wouldn’t, but only because I would DESTROY them, and I’m the man to do it. This is a specific rationalization:
      Rationalization 50A. Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care”

      Rationalization 50 is The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.” The theory there is that as long as “nobody “is bothered by the unethical conduct, it’s ethical. Of course, the flaw in that argument is that there is always someone who properly objects to unethical conduct, so the rationalization fails for the same reason as #1, “Everybody does it”…it often isn’t true.

      Rationalization 50A solves that technical problem by asserting the validity of completely subjective ethics: as long as the self-satisfied, egomaniacal individual doesn’t care about the ethical standards and values being breached or the predictable results of the conduct breaching them, it doesn’t matter who cares. His or her own assessment is enough. If it’s not unethical to him, it’s not unethical. Neat!

      This places 50A in close proximity to #14, Self-validating Virtue. The difference is that in that rationalization, the unethical actor is convinced that since he or she is inherently virtuous, anything they do must therefore also be virtuous. 50A re-defines ethical conduct as only involving “things I care about,” no matter who is involved.

      The point is that if there is a substantial likelihood that the confrontation will be unwelcome, you ask, or you don’t do it. STOP repeating “people were neither disrespectful or inflammatory”! Doing it is inherently disrespectful, and it doesn’t have to be inflammatory to be unwelcome and harassment.

      Trump was correct, 100%. It was wrong, and an apology was called for, because it was wrong.

      • Chris

        “The fact that you say you would have no problem with it is irrelevant”

        It is relevant to this point of yours, Jack:

        “Ethics Alarms has been very clear about why this is wrong in every way, and all rebuttals have boiled down to “But we don’t like Mike Pence or Donald Trump, so we should be able to suspend ethics”

        This isn’t true. I said multiple times I would not have a problem with the same speech directed to Obama or any other left-wing politician. You can choose to disbelieve that, but you’re attributing hypocrisy to your opponents’ arguments when the arguments don’t warrant that assumption.

        • You may be sincere, Chris, I assume you are. But the fact that you would have no problem if a cast ambushed Obama like that—I would, by the way, for exactly the same reasons stated regarding Hamilton, doesn’t make it right, and after 8 years of seeing even measured criticism of Obama in the right forums being frequently attacked as biased and hateful, there is no question in my mind that you are nearly unique.

          Again, I have asked if anyone can find a single instance where a cast accosted an elected official from the stage like this. Ever. Anywhere. At any level of theater in the US. Nobody has found one, and I wonder if there is one….because it is self-evidently wrong.

  7. Other Bill

    I found the Hamilton cast member’s tweets very informative and of signature significance. Yes, the attack on an audience member was unethical. But as a side note, the social justice warrior cast member also seems to be a hypocrite. Which is worth knowing.

  8. This is one of those issues that is a litmus test for how easily one abandons logical and ethical thought in surrender to partisan bias, emotion and rationalizations, because there just isn’t a single good, substantive argument on the “Hamilton was right” side.

    I know I’ve written a lot on this as well as taken the time to slap down the most common arguments, but it is an important issue, because it shows how completely partisans have become unable to stick to ethical principles when they don’t benefit from them.

    Today I read another lame excuse from a friend, a real one, on Facebook: “This was probably the only chance the cast had.” I LOVE that! If it’s the only chance you have to do something you shouldn’t do at all, then that’s an argument for doing it!

    This is how desperate and confused Trump and Pence haters along with progressive who thought they would have clear sailing to the Promised Land have become. In their bitterness, they will even stoop to utter nonsense, and be self-righteous about it.

    Seriously: chance to do WHAT? To grandstand? To annoy Mike Pence? To vent? This wasn’t a meaningful dialogue, or an exchange of ideas. (The “Hamilton” cast’s risible claim that a one way, scripted critical speech from the stage was a “conversation” set the tone for all the dishonest and tortured defenses.) A public stentorian harassment of an elected official isn’t going to change conduct or influence policy (and yes, the key feature of harassment is whether it is unwelcome and unavoidable, not how “polite” it is). The cast will have infinite opportunities, individually and as a group, if it chooses, to express its opinion in many ways, with the same limits the rest of us have, there being no special privileges for actors once the show has ended.

    This was a completely futile and stupid gesture that couldn’t possibly have any impact, so what was the urgent opportunity that couldn’t be allowed to pass?

    And again I point out that if it was considered appropriate to do this to Mike Pence, why hasn’t another cast, anywhere, any time,decided to take advantage of a single audience member’s captive state and misplaced trust, and lined up like a street gang behind a designated ranter like the Hamilton cast did to express their opposition from the safety and authority of the stage? Why? Because it’s wrong and unprofessional, and everyone has known= it was wrong and unprofessional, that’s why—until this cast, flushed with a swollen collective ego from critical praise that somehow was interpreted as a credentials of political acumen, decided that it alone in the history or American theater had the option of turning the actor-audience relationship into the student-scold one. “Everybody does it” is a rationalization that pretends to show conduct is right, but “nobody does it,” as I explain to lawyers about the perils of new and original courtroom tricks, makes a prima facie case that conduct is wrong, and probably stupid.

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