Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike

Good Morning.

1 And The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…The Harvey Express ran over several more notables in various ways last week (like Lena Dunham…). Although Senator Al Franken got most of the publicity. One was actor Jeffrey Tambor, the long-time character actor turned star of the streaming show “Transparent,” about a transgender woman. Tambor’s former assistant, eager to pick up her #MeToo brownie points even at the risk of throwing the entire “Transparent” cast and staff out of work (this is another reason why these matters are more ethically handled privately), accused the actor of lewd comments and in one case “pressing up against her.” Now Tambor, and almost certainly the hit show, are, as Jeff Flake would say. “toast.”

This weekend I crafted the apology Franken should have offered, but as bad as the one he actually offered was, it was arguably better than what Tambor came up with:

“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood.

I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever.

I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

On the Apology Scale, this combines the worst features of a #9, a “non-apology apology,” with #10, an “insincere and dishonest apology,” with some other obnoxious features thrown in for bad taste.  Tambor begins by patting himself on the back–-I’m the star, and it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the good I’ve done!—then moves on to Rationalization # 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Next, he engages in deceit, stating that he’s never been a predator, which is like saying he’s never been a race car driver or an antelope. He’s accused of sexual harassment and one incident of sexual assault. What his statement amounts to a non-denial denial: “I never did what she’s accused me of doing more than once!”

Yecchh.

2. “Because sometimes they say yes…” It is no coincidence that Tambor, Franken and Weinstein all come from the performing arts world and all are very homely men. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel  that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin. It is astounding how aggressive some of them are, and how resilient they remain after rejection and even physical abuse. If they fail a hundred times and succeed once, that’s positive reinforcement enough. If, through talent, hard work and luck, such individuals reach a level of power in the performing arts profession, sexual harassment is an established behavior pattern that doesn’t set off their ethics alarms at all.

3. It’s NOT OK to be white? Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion and an African-American, was part of a  panel discussion on fighting racial injustice eat the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. At one point she said,

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT…there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” 

Apple fired her, six months into her new role after 20 years successfully running Apple’s international Human Resources department. Smith did not have the integrity to stand by her words, and instead tried a desperate Pazuzu grovel, apologizing and saying that her words “were not representative of how I think about diversity.”  It didn’t work.

“We deeply believe that diversity drives innovation,” an Apple spokesman announced, confirming that the company has hired a new chief who will work “toward a more diverse workplace.”

4. An Inconvenient Observation. From a comment by Zoltar Speaks! (who had a Comment of the Day over the weekend, here)

“[H]ere we have an argument about abortion where you have people making an immoral choice to kill a completely innocent human being that has absolutely no physical or legal means to protect themself, and the vast majority of the social justice warriors are pro-choice/pro-abortion. Social justice warriors will scream in the streets at the top of their lungs “hands up, don’t shoot” (again regardless of truth) and justify murdering police officers sitting in their cars because police officers are killing “innocent” citizens (again regardless of truth), but yet these same self professed warriors trying to protect the innocent say absolutely nothing about protecting innocent human beings. To these social justice warriors a violent teenager actively slamming the head of a victim into a sidewalk, or a criminal trying to take a police officers firearm, or a drug crazed twenty year old beating the hell out of a police officer in a dark stairway all have more right to live than a completely innocent unborn human being.  This seems like a huge moral contradiction to me.”

Zoltar’s lament only fairly applies to some “social justice warriors,” but it is a conundrum worth considering in several respects. The apparent dissonance is one reason why so many abortion defenders move heaven, earth and logic to deny that a human life is part of the equation at all. It is also an example of how remaining on a “side” in the culture and ideological wars often requires accepting bundled positions one might never embrace in a vacuum.

What Zoltar’s comment reminded me of was the puzzling reverse argument that I have read and heard from pro-abortion advocates: it is hypocritical to support capital punishment while opposing abortion. The reason this claim is proof of a deficient mind is so obvious that I’m going to demonstrate my respect for Ethics Alarms readers by not spelling it out.

5. Gotta stop stalling and burn that diploma…In the tax-reform legislation passed by the House last week, colleges that have an endowment of more than $250,000 per student would  pay an annual tax on the profits from their endowments. This only affects  the very richest schools, and the endowment tax would be only 1.4%  For Harvard, the all-time endowment champ, this would be less than 20 million a year. Harvard’s endowment tops $36 billion.

Yet here is President Drew Faust:

“A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students and faculty.”

No, it’s a tax on an alleged non-profit educational institution that hoards an obscene amount of money.

There is a proper level of mockery coming from the Right regarding this flip-flop, with the academic bastions of Left suddenly making supply-side and trickle down arguments. From Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr:

…After all, their trust-funded professors and legacies are always loftily lecturing the rest of us about how we must pay our “fair share.” It’s an “investment in the future.” And this would be their favorite kind of tax, one that’s imposed solely on the “one percenters” and their “unearned income.” Not to mention, it’s “for the children.”How many times do the swells quote Oliver Wendell Holmes that “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

The price we pay, apparently, not them.

Hilariously, the same eggheads who are always denouncing the Republicans as the party of “the rich” are now sounding like … Republicans, defending their vast billion-dollar tax breaks.

Carr also found this, among the comments on the story at the rival Boston Globe website, citing whining from university leaders that the tax will impede their vital “mission”:

“If a 1.4 (percent) tax impacts ‘the mission’ … the 35 percent or so taken off the top of my salary sure as heck impacts my mission.”

Bingo.

 

 

25 Comments

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25 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike

  1. Scott_GF

    I don’t follow on why what Denise Young Smith said was wrong.

    • It wasn’t wrong. It was wrong to the Diversity Nazis at Apple, for whom “diversity” means “not white and male.”

      Her apology was wrong, however—cowardly, and dishonest. She meant and believes what she said, and was making a Galileo-style retraction. to save her job.

    • Inquiring Mind

      It was wrong because to the folks who run companies like Apple, diversity isn’t about life experiences, it is about your race/skin tone, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, etc. You are then assigned a box, and you are expected to believe certain things.

      For instance, as a straight white male, I am expected to accept that I am the cause of all the ills of society. I am judged as privileged, based solely on my race, sex, and sexual orientation.

      The content of your character does matter to them, because if you are, say, an African-American or Hispanic who supports Trump, you’re a “race traitor.” If you’re a woman who doesn’t support abortion, you’re “problematic” and fair game for all sorts of sexism and misogyny. Look at how Caitlin Jenner, a conservative Republican is treated because she is transgender.

      In essence, her problem was she actually looked at people as individuals, rather than subscribe to the racism, sexism, and bigotry that Apple as a corporation finds acceptable.

      Yes, those are strong words, but what is the better way to describe how the “diversity” game breaks down these days?

    • Scott_GF wrote, “I don’t follow on why what Denise Young Smith said was wrong.”

      She said is there can be diversity in life experience and life perspective within a group of white people but the diversity and inclusion she was hired to promote is diversity and inclusion in races and genders etc not in life experience and life perspective. She didn’t understand the job description.

  2. #4 Jack wrote, “Zoltar’s lament only fairly applies to some “social justice warriors,”

    You’re absolutely correct Jack, my “vast majority” was pushing it, it’s very close to to saying “all”, too close for comfort, and I oppose those “all” kind of statements. Good catch!

  3. Glenn Logan

    “If a 1.4 (percent) tax impacts ‘the mission’ … the 35 percent or so taken off the top of my salary sure as heck impacts my mission.”

    Ah, but never forget that the mission of Harvard et. al. is so much more important than our pathetic little lives.

    Just ask them.

  4. #5 made me snicker! I just love this statement “If a 1.4 (percent) tax impacts ‘the mission’ … the 35 percent or so taken off the top of my salary sure as heck impacts my mission.” in context, that comment is shear genius!

  5. brian

    I’m waiting with bated breath for Harvard President Drew Faust next statement, “A tax on corporate profits is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: line workers, engineers, support staff, IT workers and sales staff.”

    • dragin_dragon

      He’ll ever say that, brian, because he probably already knows that a tax on corporate profits is really a tax on the corporate customers who purchase the goods and/or services the corporate profits come from.

  6. 1- Tambor was highfreakin’larious as Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley in the equally chuckle-inducing “The Larry Sanders Show.”

    He also had an odd role in a hidden gem of a flick “Weapons Of Mass Distraction.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons_of_Mass_Distraction

    2- Pug ugly Y-Chromosomal Units tend toward being aggressive because the perception is while everyone else is “gettin’ plenty,” they’re on the outside looking in; ”if you don’t ask ’em, they can’t say yes” kinda thingey.

    Used to have a Branch Manager that would qualify as…um…uneasy on the eyes. Despite my regular admonishments, he would often solicit the attentions of “captive” (read: employed by him) X-Chromosomal Units by showering them with “perks” like gifts, dinners, trips, etc.

    After training them to never pick up a check and speak when spoken to, he’d get his nose out-of-joint when that training took hold, and of course it’d end badly.

    He got his @$$ in a sling more than once, dragging me along into court once in order to testify that he didn’t do what he didn’t do; he was set up and just vain enough to allow it to happen.

  7. Rich in CT

    A few years before my birth, Connecticut did not have an income tax. In the past 7 years, we have had, back-to-back, the largest tax increases in state history.

    My point is, that a 1.4% tax on endowment interest sounds reasonable. But when has government shown any reason or restraint? Opening this is sure to start a slippery-slope, where we tax wealthy, financially successful private schools to fund bloated, top heavy public schools.

  8. Ash

    Tambor’s real crime, which if you aren’t aware, can be verified with a bit of googling, is that he isn’t transgender himself. The trans community, while at first pleased with the show, are really and truly upset that Tambor took a role as a cis actor that could have been, should have been given to a trans woman.

    Though he is the star, the show was considering writing him out so that they can bring in more actual real life transgender women into it. (I say was because as of now I am reading reports he has left).

    So I don’t know if Tambor “did it”, or if it’s a false accusation, or if certain backers of show are actually that upset with a reason to oust Tambor or perhaps encouraged such reports to further some other agenda.

    And I believe that is the subtext to other remarks the actor has made including “What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago.”

    If his apology reads more like a denial than an apology that is because he is absolutely denying he is a predator while apologizing that any innocent act was misinterpreted.

    What sort of statement should he give?

    • He wasn’t accused of being a “predator.” He was accused of sexual harassment. If the accusation is false, specify what is false. I never used lewd language around my assistant. I never pressed up against her in an inappropriate way. How hard is that?

      • Ash

        Fair enough. I was wondering if the issue was about specificity and clarity.

        I suspect for Tambor and for many, predator and sexual harasser are synonymous, esp after the details of Weinstein, CK, and Spacey were publicized.

  9. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin.

    That is the truth.

    The onus has always been on men to take the initiative.

  10. jan chapman

    I was reserving judgment on Al Franken, really wanting him to stay in office because he seemed to be taking the job seriously and I’m a liberal. Now that another allegation has been made, he needs to leave. His latest “apology” made me physically sick.

  11. DaveL

    A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students and faculty

    And…? What’s wrong with that? Taxes aren’t supposed to be an indication of social disapproval. We want the government to do things. Doing those things takes money. In order to be effective at getting money, you have to target the things that make money or otherwise have money. Harvard has money. The Ticks and Hangnails Tax thing didn’t work out.

    • Isaac

      That statement you quoted is hilarious in light of the existence of the income tax.

    • Joe Fowler

      Taxes aren’t supposed to be an indication of social disapproval. –
      Hmmm, let me light up a tax-free, Indian-Reservation purchased cigarette and think about that.

      • Michael R.

        I didn’t think Indian Reservation cigarettes were tax-free. I thought they were just lower-taxed and the taxes went to the tribe. Don’t governments hate it when they have competition?

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