[This is pronounced “Kaliméra!,” not to be confused with “Calamari!” My father frequently got them confused when he visited Greece with my mom, the former Eleanor Coulouris, and embarrassed her by greeting the natives some mornings by cheerily saying, “Squid!“]
1. The newspaper Arts section headline says, “Mayor Ties Arts Money To Diversity.”
The mayor in question is New York City’s DeBlasio, and since his own family is “diverse,” naturally every other entity has to be, or it is baaaad. This is why I oppose government funding of the arts unless it guarantees that the nation, state or city will not attempt to use its support to control the arts organizations in any way. Of course, governments will never do that, because manipulating the arts to advance political agendas is usually the underlying motive in arts grants. Ideologues like De Blasio—wow, he’s terrible—will constantly be grandstanding and doing everything in their power to manipulate artists and their art to ensure that they send the “right” messages—you know, like Nazi art and Communist art. It is exactly the same theory and practice: art as political indoctrination.
Quick: who thinks that De Blasio will be focusing on “diversity” in the management (or on the website) of the Dance Theater of Harlem? Even if the government doesn’t attach strings to its support, arts organizations know that there are more of them than there is tax-payer money to disperse, so there is terrible and often irrsistable pressure to distort their product to give their state funders what the artists think they want—just to be safe.
My professional theater company refused to do that, sticking to the integrity of our mission and not resorting to tokens and virtue-signalling. My now defunct professional theater company, that is.
2. Yesterday, I highlighted the head-blasting comments of New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and his alternate-universe pronouncements about the Obama presidency. To be fair to A.O., his entire profession is packed with historical and political ignoramuses who make their readers dumber with every review. I once created a theater reviewer’s code of ethics, which I mailed to a critic, who sent it back to me with a note that said, “Mind your own business.” Years ago, I published an essay that was called “Why Professional Reviewers Are Unethical,” that began,
When Variety announced that it was firing its in-house film and drama reviewers, there was much tut-tutting and garment-rending over the impending demise of professional reviewing in magazines, newspapers and TV stations. The villain, the renders cry, lies, as in the Case of the Slowly Dying Newspapers, with the web, which allows any pajama-clad viewer of bootleg videos to write film reviews, and any blogger who cares to write a review of a play. “I think it’s unfortunate that qualified reviewers are being replaced,” said one movie industry pundit, “but that’s what’s happening.”
I say, “Good. It’s about time.”
It’s not happening quickly enough, though. “Dunkirk” is opening this week, and, as I predicted, film reviewers are showing their utter historical ignorance. The Washington Examiner skewers them deftly in an essay called “Why the (True) History of Dunkirk Matters.” Highlights, or rather lowlights:
- USA Today critic Brian Truitt complains that “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.” He is not the only film critic to observe this.
- Slate.com critic Dana Stevens claims that the British Army at Dunkirk was the “last bulwark against Nazi invasion of the British mainland.”
Not even close to true.
- Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers writes that, “Had Hitler pursued the fight on the beaches and forced a surrender, we’d all be living a real version of ‘The Man in the High Castle” [Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel in which the Axis defeats the Allies].‘
Yup, once England fell, who else was left to fight Hitler?
I can’t think of anyone, can you?
3. Yesterday, Cincinnati’s DA Joseph T. Deters announced that there would be no third trial for Officer Raymond M. Tensing, who is white, and who shot and killed unarmed motorist Samuel DuBose, who was black. during a vehicle stop. The first two trials ended in mistrials, with juries deadlocked. Now federal prosecutors will decide whether a civil rights prosecution is warranted—it shouldn’t be, because such prosecutions are really double jeopardy—but since the Trump Justice Department is less inclined than its predecessor to use its power to pander to civil rights and black advocacy groups, a prosecution is less than likely.
This news comes after recent acquittals of police officers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, all of whom were seen on video shooting unarmed black men. The news media and activists lump these cases together because the legal system reached similar results in all of them. That is a misleading and inflammatory approach, as is comparing those shootings to the police shootings of Walter Scott in South Carolina, shot in the back while fleeing an arrest, or Tamir Rice, a Cleveland, Ohio child killed while playing with a toy gun in a park. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that juries, including grand juries, are reluctant to punish police officers whose incompetence, fear, panic or confusion—or racial bias— cause them to take a life.
When he initially announced his intent to prosecute Tensing, Deters said, “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.” I don’t know about that, but it seems indisputable that the officer panicked and wrongly used deadly force. As shown in the video, Tensing stops a green Honda Accord because it is missing a front license plate. He asks the driver to produce a driver’s license, but DuBose does not comply. After the officer asks DuBose to remove his seatbelt and places his hand on the car door to open it, DuBose pulls the door shut starts the car. The video shows Tensing reaching into the car and shouting “Stop!” twice. Then the officer fires his gun once, striking DuBose in the head and killing him instantly.
Tensing’s testimony was that his arm was caught in the steering wheel and he shot because he was in danger of being dragged by DuBose’s car.
I am at a loss to devise an ethical solution to the persistent problem of police so frequently escaping legal consequences of rash or illegal shootings. The elements that make it an ethics Gordian knot are…
1. Usually the killing is due to a police officer having a bad day, a bad moment, or just being a poor officer. Police officers, most people feel, have a difficult job, and shouldn’t be imprisoned for their mistakes unless actual malice can be proved. (I agree with them.)
2. These shootings almost always involve victims who resist arrest or otherwise defy the officer’s lawful instructions. I’d say DuBose’s conduct was at least as “asinine” as Tensing’s. A jury is likely to think, “Well, he brought that on himself” even though deadly force is not a legal response.
3. The African-American community is preconditioned to fear and distrust police, for valid historical reasons as well as present-day beliefs reinforced by statistics, community narratives and media coverage. This nurtures a mindset that makes conduct by black citizens in confrontation with police more likely to be hostile, fearful, or antagonistic. Hostile, fearful, or antagonistic conduct makes police over-reaction and excessive force more likely.
4. Activists want the system to presume that any time a white officer (or sometimes any officer) shoots an unarmed black victim, it is racially motivated. White jurors are offended by that assumption. I am offended by that assumption.
5. In part to mollify the black community and avoid civil unrest, prosecutors often over-charge. Prosecutors tried to add a lesser charge of reckless homicide halfway through Tensing’s second trial, but the judge ruled that it was too late.
6. The “beyond a reasonable doubt standard” seems to be an almost insuperable obstacle when the defendant is a police officer who is routinely placed in situations where a typical juror would be in fear of his or her life.
The situation has all of the elements of a vicious cycle, “a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation.” Breaking that cycle is as imperative as it is unimaginable.