Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

Yeah? What’s so “good” about it? HUH? Well?

1. In an article/discussion about the impact of George Romero, the zombie genre creator who died last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, and I’m not making this up,

A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on [Romero’s “Night of the living Dead,”], I hinted that [the film’s African-American hero’s]death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.


This insulting, counter-factual, absolutely crackers statement may be an opinion, but it is so stunningly biased and warped that it should have set off ethics alarms at the Times, if any exist. If the film critic could say this in print, he says it among his colleagues. If he has said it among his colleagues and no editor, pundit or colleague has grabbed him by the lapels and said, “What the hell are you talking about, man? You better keep that crap to yourself, because it embarrasses the paper. Better yet, I think you need a vacation!”, then this strongly suggests that almost everyone at the Times is marinating in a crippling fantasy culture that makes independent, objective, trustworthy reporting and punditry impossible.

A.O.’s statement self-destructs at “calm.” Obama “saved” nobody; in fact, he either deliberately or incompetently degraded the one area of our society he was elected to improve: racial harmony and respect. How does a black character’s death (the movie’s hero is shot by authorities who assume he is a zombie) “prophecy” the fate of Barack Obama, elected President twice, cheered upon his leaving office, and immediately rewarded with historical revisionism, obscene speaking fees and a book contract? [I hate to cavil, but it really needs to be pointed out that the Duane Jones character in “Night of the Living Dead,” far from saving the white characters, gets them eaten and zombified by adamantly rejecting one obnoxious white man’s insistence that they should all just lock themselves in the basement. After all those white people the Obama-like hero  “saved” according to A.O. are ambulatory brain-eaters, he survives the zombie onslaught—by locking himself in the basement! I suppose this “prophesied” leading from behind.]

The critic’s statement is thinly veiled anti-white racism, bubbling up from the concentrated anger and Trump hysteria at the Times. White supremacy. Sure, A.O. I won’t be reading any of your reviews anymore, nor your fellow critic Jason Zinoman, who either agrees with your fanciful and hateful assessment, or didn’t have the integrity to tell you that you are paranoid and nuts on the record. Either way, he is also a fool. I don’t care what either of you think about movies, since you view them through bullshit colored  glasses.

2. I have three times now prepared to write a post about what I now call Anti-Trump porn at the Times, highlighted every week by the Sunday Times “Review Section.” Last Sunday was another one. This section’s obsession is stunning: the section is loaded with unrestrained Trump hate, ad hominem insults and hysteria and  from every perspective. I would think other Times readers would be bored, not to mention alarmed, by this monotonous vive and broadcast of bias (An unbiased newspaper would not allow one topic and one point of view to monopolize its weekly commentary section), but apparently the Times readership is insatiable.

The res ipsa loquitur feature this time was an editorial cartoon by Art Spiegelman, who is a brilliant cartoonist when at his best. Like most cartoonists of a political bent, he is all ideology and advocacy, and pretty much devoid of respect for facts and balance. Here was his comment after November 8:

“I see something similar to Hitler in that it’s gone very fast to things that seem surreal to me, like Trump supporters shooting four civilians at a polling place in California – one of them died. And there’s the slide towards uncivility, from what I read on the internet. For the first time I got to see my name with three parentheses signs around it. I don’t think it was a secret that I’m Jewish, but they were making sure that the alt-right people would know that I was Jewish. That’s just something I saw a couple of days ago. ‘Oh, I see. OK, it’s a new day.’ And at this point we don’t care about refugees’ lives. They’re not white lives. So yeah, sure, I’m worried.”

Shut up and draw, Art. Trump supporters did not shoot four civilians at a polling place in California. Middle East refugees are white. And Art must not check the internet very often, if he judges any single  excess or outrage as proof of anything. His was a statement of pure intellectual laziness, bias, bigotry and hysteria—but never mind, political cartoonists don’t have to be fair, accurate or responsible. They just have to communicate what a biased paper’s editors know even its own biased pundits couldn’t get away with, and have the defense that “it was just supposed to be funny!”  Thus here was the Spiegelman cartoon featured on page two of the Times’ Review section last Sunday:



Art said that he was bothered by rising incivility??? Physician, heal thyself.

This is calumny, under the guise of humor. (How many people find being vomited on funny? Not me.) No President in the history of the nation has ever been represented in such disgusting fashion in a major newspaper. Nor is there any enlightening metaphorical statement here. If Trump is the frog, and the princess is the electorate, there were no fantasies among those who voted for Trump that he would magically transform into something radically more attractive. I doubt that a single voter felt that way. They “kissed” this frog because the unsavory alternative was the large, female toad oozing puss from every pore and backed by a troop of snakes and slugs. The horrific vomiting image is simply an ad hominem insult without substance. Again, no President has ever been insulted like this, and no President should.

A paper that deems such an ugly and hateful cartoon as worthy of publication cannot ever assert that it is capable of fair reporting on the cartoon’s victim. Why should the President be obligated to treat with respect unethical journalists who engage in these kinds of gratuitous, personal attacks? It is completely reasonable and responsible to announce, “When you act like responsible journalists, the White House will treat you accordingly.

3. Here’s a nice “Awwwww!” story, and two readers suggest that I make the furry rescuer involved an “Ethics Hero.” I doubt that ethics were involved, but dogs are still mysterious in many ways. I could be wrong.

4. I have a more substantive illegal immigration-pandering post in the works, so I’ll just leave this one in passing.  Rep. José Serrano (D-NY)  said, during a Congressional debate over President Trump’s wall, that the U.S. should build a new “Statue of Liberty” on our Mexican border…you know, to welcome and encourage illegal immigrants, which is what the conventional Democratic Party policy toward illegal immigration has been for decades. Give Serrano credit; at least this is an unambiguous open-borders position, if stupidly expressed.

Someone should tell the Congressman that the French lady’s welcome was offered to legal immigrants, who had to go through a legal process at Ellis Island. If Mexico would ensure that all of the illegal border crossers it currently facilitates have to pass through a similar process, I’m sure the U.S. would happily clone Lady Liberty.


32 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

  1. I have Art Speigelman’s book on 9/11, In the Shadow of No Towers. I think he’s brilliant.

    But there is no excuse for him perpetuating the lie that a Trump supporter shot four people at a polling station; that is signature significance of ignorance and caring more about narrative than reality.

    The only problem with the cartoon you highlight is that I didn’t understand the message until you explained it. But I do remember lots of people saying they hoped Trump would change for the better once elected, that he would feel the weight of the responsibility of the presidency and rise to the occasion. This was always delusional thinking, not just optimism. The cartoon is an exaggeration of this delusion, and uses hyperbole in the same way most political cartoons do. The vomiting isn’t that funny, but I don’t see it as uniquely “hateful,” nor do I understand why someone who spews rhetoric as ugly and hateful as Trump does should not be attacked with justified hatred himself. “Because he’s president” is an argument that means political cartoonists should be especially deferential to authority, which is counter-intuitive; satire is supposed to target power.

    Someone should tell the Congressman that the French lady’s welcome was offered to legal immigrants, who had to go through a legal process at Ellis Island. If Mexico would ensure that all of the illegal border crossers it currently facilitates have to pass through a similar process, I’m sure the U.S. would happily clone Lady Liberty.

    I think the border crossers themselves would be equally happy if the process for coming into this country legally were as simple as it was in the early days of Ellis Island.

      • Wait a minute. A country with plenty of people and a cushy social safety net in 2017 that is fiscally insupportable now and in the long term should be obligated to allow in people in the same manner it did over a hundred years ago when it was in need of a populace and provided next to nothing to immigrants other than an opportunity to make their own way? Why is that sound policy?

        • There are some economic theories that allowing massive immigration can just start the economy. This, of course, requires immigrants with the skills that are needed.

            • How is it irrelevant? If immigrants are bad for our economy, we should strengthen immigration laws, meaning “make more immigration illegal.” If immigrants are good for our economy, we should weaken immigration laws, meaning “make more immigration legal.” The point about the economic impact isn’t irrelevant to illegal immigration–it’s one of the major sources of disagreement over whether we should have the types of immigration laws we have now in the first place.

              • The anti-illegal immigration position—which is silly even to say, since everyone should be anti-illegal anything has never been based on any objections to legal immigration. Advocates of illegal immigrants have used racism and xenophobia as a dishonest, misleading, deceptive attack to try to demonize the supporters of basic sovereignty and law. No one but a lunatic, nativist fringe has ever advocated less legal immigration—better targeted immigration, perhaps—or claimed that it was bad for the economy, a potion that is factually untenable. Your comment just furthers the intentional muddling of the rather key distinction between illegal and legal.

                The hauling of legal immigration into the illegal immigration debate must be one of the most effective and cynical uses of a straw man ever. Don’t do it.

                • The anti-illegal immigration position—which is silly even to say, since everyone should be anti-illegal anything has never been based on any objections to legal immigration.

                  You’re right, it is silly to say. Let’s try a similar construction:

                  “The anti-illegal guns position–which is silly even to say, since everyone should be anti-illegal anything–has never been based on any objections to legal guns.”

                  What does this construction mean? What we can infer here is that there are some types of guns the speaker feels should be illegal, and some types of guns the speaker feels should be legal. But in order to truly make a case for this, the speaker would need to appeal to more than just the law, otherwise they’re engaging in circular logic. “What kinds of guns should be illegal?” “The illegal kind! Duh!”

                  That doesn’t get us anywhere. Nor would the statement “I’m not against guns, I’m against illegal guns!” Ok. Tell us what the difference is other than just the law. Specifically, explain why certain guns should be legal and certain guns shouldn’t be. But don’t say that you’re not against guns. And don’t say you’re “anti-illegal-guns” when in reality you are “pro-gun-criminalization.”

                  People wouldn’t support laws banning certain types of guns if they did not think certain types of guns were undesirable. Similarly, people wouldn’t support banning certain types of immigrants if they did not think certain types of immigrants were undesirable. What we need to do is take a step back and look at whether our immigration laws actually make sense and keep undesirables out while letting desirable people in. As of now, they do not do that, because the Right can’t come up with any argument but “Illegal means illegal” and the Left can’t come up with any argument but “So what?” And when people can’t justify why certain laws exist, the will to execute those laws in a consistent fashion evaporates. Laws without a firm, coherent basis for their existence are ignored and fall out of use.

                  We have little enforcement against illegal immigration in this country because proponents of our current immigration laws can’t make the case for their existence.

                  • Rephrase honestly, and then I’ll engage. Your re-phrasing would involve someone arguing that it should be permitted to violate existing gun laws. That’s equally ridiculous. “What we can infer here is that there are some types of guns the speaker feels should be illegal, and some types of guns the speaker feels should be legal.” WRONG. I means that what is currently illegal should be enforced as illegal. That’s all. And opposing that position regarding illegal immigration is the essence of the pro-illegal immigration position, which is, as I have pointed out accurately here repeatedly, nonsense, dishonest, destructive, cynical and stupid.

                    • Skipping to your last outrageous and counter factual comment—give us a break. The argument for their existence is that no nation can exist without controlling its borders, and the law needs to be enforced. To the contrary, there are no arguments against the current laws except rationalizations and outright lies….other than the argument that the legal immigration process should be streamlined. So does the DMV’s lines, but that doesn’t mean I should be able to drive without a license.

                      Be serious.

                    • Jack, I did critique the Left’s “so what?” stance on allowing people to break immigration laws. That is very clearly not my argument, and one I criticized. However, I also explained why the argument is seductive; laws that seem pointless or counter-productive to a large group of people are going to be ignored by a large group of people. That’s not a rationalization, it’s reality.

                      Of course there must be some immigration laws. But the best argument against our current laws is that they are not only ineffective, they are probably unenforceable. As I believe you yourself have noted, the only way possibly to fully enforce our existing laws is mass deportations, which you acknowledge will never happen and should not happen.

                      OB’s comment struck me as not being about illegal immigration. He asked whether our country should “allow” more people in, and this was a direct response to my comment about making the entry process less restrictive. So yes, it appears there are indeed people who oppose allowing more legal immigrants in than we currently do. This attitude will not do anything to discourage illegal immigration; much like prohibition, it will only encourage illegal activity.

                    • Chris, “a lot of people will break it” is not even close to a criticism of any law. More people steal stuff than immigrate illegally. That’s not an argument for changing the law.

                    • Chris, “a lot of people will break it” is not even close to a criticism of any law. More people steal stuff than immigrate illegally. That’s not an argument for changing the law.

                      It is if there are better ways to address the issue the law is designed to solve, or the law itself creates issues worse than the issue it’s designed to solve, or if the issue the law is designed to solve is nonexistent or something the law should not actually address. See: prohibition.

        • I didn’t say our country should be “obligated” to do that, just that it would be a solution that would make lots of people happy. It would seem the best compromise between the anti-illegal immigration and the pro-illegal immigration side would be “make legal immigration easier.” But that’s assuming the anti-illegal immigration side just wants less illegal immigration, not less immigration period.

      • Wow. When you think of Ellis Island, you never contemplate some people being turned away. That would have been horrible after coming across the ocean to America, especially if the rest of your family was admitted.

  2. Re: #3:
    I can’t help but notice a bit of cynicism on the authors part. The last sentence, implying that she has doubts about the dog’s motives I find a bit silly. Oh, and did we all notice the dog was a retriever…that’s what retrievers do, they retrieve things.

    • That may have been the craziest statement I have read in a serious news site since the election. And the Times just let it hang out there. Maybe they are trying to let him destroy himself.

      • Jack Marshall wrote, “Maybe they are trying to let him destroy himself.”

        When the core belief system of the NYT indicates that they truly believe that ends justifies the means, anything goes, even utterly delusional propaganda.

        This won’t destroy him, it’ll likely increase his reader base and the NYT knows it. The NYT is making sure that their anti-Trump madness is spreading to all forms of “journalism” spewing forth from their propaganda machine.

  3. Re: #4:
    I think Mexico should build that welcoming statue on the southern…oh, yeah, where there was, you know, a border. Or maybe Mexico could do a gofundme with other countries farther south, and a few countries in the Middle East, and China, and a couple more lands over in east Asia and the western Pacific (except those proto-Eurocentric, white privilege states, Australia and New Zealand).

    The verse inscribed at the base of the statue should say:

    “Give me your entitled, your criminals,
    Your fifth cousins yearning for their distant aunts’ and uncles’ freebies,
    The most assimilation-averse of the wretchedness of YOUR cultures;
    March these, the trafficked, drugged and gang-initiated into me.
    I point the way to your paradise: Washington DC!”

  4. Re: The NYT.

    I’ve long considered Metropolitan NYC the most provincial area of the country. I was on the East Coast last month and spent some time with my late good college friend’s widow. She grew up in New Jersey, lived and worked in NYC from college on, and is now retired in CT. She is absolutely furious about Trump being president. Livid is hardly the word. As were almost all the other North Easterners I encountered during my week long trip. Her explanation was, essentially: “We’ve had to endure over thirty or forty years of THAT MAN!”

    My observation is that this Trump hatred is a fairly peculiarly local thing which the NYT and other NYC-based media have taken national. Just a theory in search of an explanation for the irrational excess.

    • That’s a good observation and theory, OB. The differences in prevailing provincial views explains in part why the northeasterners (and persons of other regions and provincial views, like those on the Left Coast) would be so puzzled at the rejection of who they consider their icons by people of yet other provincial regions and views.

      • Which is exacerbated by the Northeast controlling media and the administration of the federal government and the West Coast having Hollywood on the southern tier and Silicon Valley and its billionaires on the north. All of which allows both provinces to punch WAY above their weight.

        • I don’t think all provinces are equally provincial. The Northeast is so self-absorbed and complacent its views and self-regard that it is uniquely provincial, i.e., unaware of other parts of the country and varying points of view. LA and SF are probably comparable. Plus Portland and Seattle. Funny how unwoke the balances of WA, OR and CA are by comparison to the big metro areas.

          • “I don’t think all provinces are equally provincial.” I don’t know about that – wish I had more time to discuss. There does seem to be a clear “provincial” split between “mega-urban” and “ex-urban.” Gets me to thinking about how every county in Oklahoma went “red” last November – and wondering how soon, before one of the bigger cities there (OKC or Tulsa) go “blue.” I just wish blue would go red in those bigger cities, for a change, instead of always going blue and staying blue. The trending seems inexorably toward blue, everywhere. I think that is disastrous.

  5. So Speigelman’s cartoon portrays Trump as a nasty toad vomiting all over the princess (public) sort of like the Jurassic Park dinosaur that does the same to the chubby thief before he eats him alive. How clever. Speigelman is a sick, sick, sick person and should seek psychiatric help asap.

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