Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/13/17

1.  The controversy over the Central Park “Julius Caesar” casting Donald Trump–his stage clone, really—as Caesar continues to be ignorantly argued. What’s worse, Fox News constantly calling the Shakespearean classic an “assassination play” (it’s not, not even close), or people who really would love to see Trump assassinated arguing that there’s a double standard because some professional productions of  “Julius Caesar” in recent years cast a black actor as the targeted emperor? Does anyone for a second believe that if a high-profile theatrical production depicted a character as clearly intended to symbolize Obama as the New York City production styles its Caesar as Trump being assassinated in a scene like the one below, there would not have been equivalent, indeed greater outrage?

The most cited production with a black, modern business-suited Caesar had an actor with a shaved head playing the role, clearly signalling that this was NOT Barack Obama. This, however, is “Donald Trump”:

My question is: Does the audience cheer? I bet they do, and I bet that’s exactly what the director wanted. I support the production, and reject efforts to pressure donors into pulling support. Theater is often political, and outrageous, and should be. But the play’s defenders who cite versions that evoked a black leader as equivalent are arguing that people are more upset at a faux Trump assassination than they would have been if “Obama” were slaughtered in Central Park, and that is absurd.

2. Another looming boycott is the effort to punish NBC’s Megyn Kelly for interviewing InfoWars’ Alex Jones, the professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing liar. Because he famously suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax—an instant IQ test for anyone deciding to ever pay attention to this jerk again—Sandy Hook parents and their allies are condemning NBC and Kelly for “giving him a platform,” and have succeeded in getting one sponsor, JP Morgan, to drop its ads. How long before both ends of the political spectrum start routinely pushing boycotts of any journalists who “give a platform” to someone their “side” has pronounced as evil?  The Sandy Hook victims’ families continue to abuse the sympathy their tragedy evoked by using it to attack core rights using appeals to emotion and little else. Some quotes from the Washington Post story:

Nelba Márquez-Greene saw the interview, scheduled to air Sunday — Father’s Day — as an “egregious offense” to fathers whose children were murdered Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. “To give Alex Jones a platform on Father’s Day is especially cruel to me,” she told The Washington Post.

An adversarial interview on a left-leaning news network is not a “platform” for someone like Jones, and every tragedy’s news coverage is painful to someone. Recommendation to Sandy Hook parents: Don’t watch.


Márquez-Greene said Kelly’s reasoning is misguided and would, instead, encourage Jones’s army of followers to “double down” on their effort to label the massacre of 20 elementary schoolchildren a hoax.

Here we see the tendrils of the increasing progressive embrace of information and speech control to aid in indoctrination.  Márquez-Greene advocates censorship because bad things will be done with free expression. She is a far greater danger than Jones is.

“Shining a light works on cockroaches,” she said. “It doesn’t work on Alex Jones.”

Really? Here is a snippet from the interview:

Kelly: When you say parents faked their children’s death, people get angry.

Jones: Oh, I know. But they don’t get angry about the half a million dead Iraqis from the sanctions. They don’t get angry about all the —

Kelly: That’s a dodge.

Jones: No, no, it’s not a dodge. The media never covers all the evil wars that’s promoted —

Kelly: That doesn’t excuse what you did and said about Newtown. You know it.

Jones: Here’s the difference. I looked at all the angles of Newtown, and I made statements long before the media even picked up on it. We didn’t really get into the really important stuff.

Kelly: What do you mean? We talked about all the important stuff.

Jones: Here’s the big one they always make fun of me. You probably want to throw this in there. Thirty years ago, they began creating animal-human hybrids. Isn’t that the big story that Megyn Kelly should be doing.

The man’s a double-talking charlatan, and a dumb one at that. It’s good to know.

3. From Ethics Alarms scout Fred: in New Jersey, cops were caught on camera beating a man whom they assumed was the driver of the fleeing vehicle they had been chasing after it crashed. After all, he was on fire. Oopsie! It was an innocent bystander, whose car the fugitive struck.   The Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, a union representing Jersey City police officers, said—wait for it!— that the officers were trying to put out the flames and get the man to safety. Suuuuure, that’s exactly what the video shows…

“Taking swift action isn’t always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm’s way,” JCPOBA President Carmine Disbrow said in a statement.

This kind of obvious self-serving dishonesty harms all police, as it it epitomizes why the public distrusts police accounts when law enforcement conduct is in question—unless I missed the change to the traditional instruction on what to do if you’re on fire. Is it now “Stop, drop, and wait for someone to kick the crap out of you”?

I must have missed the memo.


25 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/13/17

  1. How long before both ends of the political spectrum start routinely pushing boycotts of any journalists who “give a platform” to someone their “side” has pronounced as evil?

    That particular horse, unfortunately, has already left the barn.

    We saw it when the left focused its ire on Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Rush Limbaugh and others. I’m not suggesting that any of these characters were pure as driven snow – or, for that matter, that a good case couldn’t have been made that they they had it coming. But one must recognize that there was an organized ad boycott campaign led by Media Matters that was contributory.

    Recently, the Media Research Center and Brent Bozell – MRC may be thought of as a right-wing equivalent to Media Matters – has begun a similar campaign. Bozell is an interesting character; MRC has done some good work and they operate an online news service called CNS which occasionally has some pretty good reporting (full disclosure: the first editor of CNS is a personal friend).

    Bozell is now leading exactly the same type of advertiser boycott campaign that Media Matters did, aimed at CNN and MSNBC, among others. One might suppose the recent sacking of a CNN opinionator may have at least traces of Bozell’s fingerprints on it.

    Color me disappointed. Like anyone in the news/opinion biz, Bozell is certainly not without his faults. But I thought he generally ran things to a higher standard than did his counterparts on the left. Guess I was wrong about that.

      • Meant to add: this is wrong no matter who does it. However, when the right is facing the silencing of their political speech (an existential threat to a constitutional right), does this make one of those situations when the unethical becomes the ethical? We discussed this yesterday in on other thread, and I wonder where that line resides.


        • I think you are on to something, slickwilly. The political Right must fight, as aggressively as possible. Because if they don’t, then the Left will have too easy of a time establishing the lie that the Right is nothing but a fringe, a kooky minority, when in fact that is precisely what the Left is. So for now, and until open warfare decides the more permanent winner, the Right must fight, and fight using the tactics and strategies that are favorites of the Left. There isn’t anything that irks the Left more (and there isn’t anything the Left more deserves to suffer) than being beaten by the same means they employ – which is to say, by any and all means necessary.

            • Exactly.

              The full list being used here…

              1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it”
              1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”
              2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad”
              2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming”
              3. Consequentialism, or “It worked out for the best”
              4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”
              7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse
              8A. The Dead Horse-Beater’s Dodge, or “This can’t make things any worse”
              13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
              14. Self-validating Virtue
              17. Ethical Vigilantism
              25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
              28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
              31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
              40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
              53. Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s just business”
              58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”
              59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”
              62. The Doomsday License

              In other words, not an ethical response.

              • I accept your judgement, Jack.

                Where DOES the line run where the unethical becomes unethical? At what level do the rules change?

                I run by rules. This is all gray area to me.

              • So you see Arthur’s eight and raise him eleven. Nineteen: almost perfect! Perfect indeed, for Louis Farrakhan’s numerology. Well, there’s the Jester’s Privilege, and then there’s the Prophet’s Problem – the irresistible impulse to utter the ultimate trigger-speech and aggression-by-speech.

    • At some point, refusing to fight back becomes complicity with your own destruction.

      The Democratic Party has chosen a path with one of two outcomes: If they succeed, a new apartheid will sweep across this country – one that will be described as “social justice” but which will be devoid of any justice at all. If they fail, maybe, just maybe, we can try to get this nation back to a less-polarized state.

  2. Attacking sponsors is sometimes the one effective way to break someone or silence them when all else has failed. Case in point: St. Paddy’s Day NYC and Boston. Gay groups wanted to force their way into the parade under their own banners, the organizers said no. Years of litigation finally reached the SCOTUS and the SCOTUS said sorry, private organization, they get to pick who they will and won’t allow to march. Activists protested, some politicians refused to march, still not enough, the event was just too big and too established, and no one gave a damn if DeBlasio marched or not, they were there to see the pipe bands and military units, sip some whiskey, and have fun. Other case law established DeBlasio couldn’t pull the FDNY or NYPD from the parade or forbid them to wear their uniforms. So the activists targeted Guinness, Ford, and other companies who sponsored the parade and threatened to lead a boycott, leading some of them to pull their sponsorship. In 2016 the organizers finally broke and allowed the Lavender and Green alliance in.

    The fact is most corporations break quite quickly the minute someone whispers “boycott” and without money, nothing happens. I guess this is another ethics dodge, although I’m not sure “it worked, didn’t it?” is one of the recognized dodges.

  3. Does anyone for a second believe that if a high-profile theatrical production depicted a character as clearly intended to symbolize Obama as the New York City production styles its Caesar as Trump being assassinated in a scene like the one below, there would not have been equivalent, indeed greater outrage?

    Me. I do. My evidence follows:

    Exhibit A:

    Review: Julius Caesar @ The Guthrie Theater December 19, 2013

    ” The play begins with a bank of video monitors featuring every talking head in the business—Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Erin Burnett, Rachel Maddow, etc.—all mouthing in ultra-slow-motion the daily wave of misinformation and speculation we continue to call “the news.” As the heads dissolve into TV snow, in walks Caesar and his cabinet. And, because Caesar is cast as a tall, lanky black man, the Obama inference is a bit too obvious. But it fits, sort of. Like Caesar, Obama rose to power on a tide of public goodwill; like Caesar, there were many in government who doubted Obama’s leadership abilities; and now that Obama’s first term has failed to live up to the messianic hype, there are plenty of people who—for the good of the country, you understand, not their own glory—want to take Obama down. ”

    Exhibit B A less enthusiastic review

    THEATER | Acting Company and Guthrie Theater bring “Julius Caesar” awkwardly into the 21st century
    By Jay Gabler (TC Daily Planet) | January 21, 2012

    “In this Caesar, Julius and his inner circle are dressed in crisp business suits, Bjorn DuPaty cutting an unmistakably Obama-like figure as the eponymous ruler.

    DuPaty plays Caesar with the kind of shameless charm that Obama himself might do well to turn on more often; adding a more generous dash of the President’s sincerity might have made Caesar’s demise feel more tragic, but when you’re getting stabbed in slow motion, you’re really fighting an uphill battle to keep the audience’s faces straight.

    It could be argued that what was acceptable political discourse in 2012-2013 is not acceptable in the Age of Trump of course. That such a play staged now, with an Obamalike Caesar, would result in “equivalent or greater outrage”.

    But it didn’t in 2012. Or 2013. So it would be up to you, Jack, to give evidence. Not only that it would result in a brouhaha of epic proportions, but that it would be unreasonable, unthinkable even for a second, to consider that it might not.

    Convince me.

    • The most cited production with a black, modern business-suited Caesar had an actor with a shaved head playing the role, clearly signalling that this was NOT Barack Obama.

      There’s two examples of reviews where the “clear signal”, if that is what it was, was lost. Perhaps you’re aware of others I’m not aware of, where it wasn’t.

      Convince me. Fact check me. Please, of course, I have no right to demand that you do, this merely a request.

      We share a common trait: our opinions change when confronted with better facts.

          • How incredibly insensitive, Sue. The only thing those two pictures have is the race of the subjects. The second one is bald for crying out loud.

            Do you live where you are exposed to minorities on a daily basis? (How about, like me, YOU are the minority locally?) Faces matter: skin color does not.

            And these two incidents are NOT the same. You trying to say so is a deflection from what should embarrass anyone with a sliver of common decency.

            I am NOT calling you names, Sue. Just pointing out that when the shoe is on the other foot, progressives spin, spin, spin when common Americans can see the truth. The optics matter.

            Progressives still have not realized that this sort of excess drove voters away from Hillary. Trump could have been named ‘None of the above’ and still won anywhere but the progressive coasts.

      • Neither review described the Ceasr as Obama, but “Obamaesque” as in “black.” Since he was the only black President, that was an obvious comment. No director who wanted to say “this should be thought of as Obama” would cast a shaven-head actor. If those reviewers were really convinced that the JC meant to show Obama being assassinated, their reaction would have been different.

    • I shouldn’t have to. Obama inference and Obama-like do not mean “it’s Obama.” Sam Rockwell did a dead on Bush II impression in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy”—it was mean, but funny. I did not think the film was implying that President Bush was in outer space.

  4. You ok, Jack? Some real horror in your hometown today. Hateful messages cheering on the attack because it was the GOP who was targeted to start in 3…2….

    • I have heard that ‘between 50 and 100’ shots were fired. If this was a rifle with the ability for 30 round magazines (like a Ruger 10/22, but likely much larger in caliber), that would be easy to accomplish within 90 seconds.

      How many were hit? 5? On a baseball field?

      How much actual training did this guy have?
      Did the fact that others were shooting back almost immediately impact his aim?


        • My grandfather could hit a turkey in the head across the river (100+ yard shot on a jerkily moving target) at that age, on the little training he go during WWII and life long recreational plinking. Age is not a factor: familiarity with shooting is. Unless there are physical impairments, of course.

          I am starting to believe this guy never shot a gun before, based on what we are hearing about him.

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