1 A strange disconnect. Does anyone else find it strange that Turner Movie Classics, which I would generally describe as a national cultural treasure, would choose Christmas Day of this year to highlight the career of director Alfred Hitchcock? As Hollywood and the movie industry are going to extreme lengths to purge themselves of the sexual predators in their midst, in some cases literally sending artistically outstanding works and careers into cultural purgatory, and with even calls for moderation and proportion (Matt Damon) or protestations of naive or denial-fueled ignorance (Meryl Streep) being sufficient to spark a professional crisis and widespread public criticism, TCM, the modern day TV curator of Hollywood’s Golden Age, selected the most infamous sexual predator among all legendary American directors as its special Christmas treat.
I don’t know what to make of this. Did the ethics alarms just go dead at TCM? Is this a case of “The King’s Pass,” as in, “Yes, male power figures in Hollywood engaging in sexual misconduct has been a terrible problem and it is important that this is finally being addressed, buuuut this is Alfred Hitchcock, after all. We have to over-look all of that because he’s a genius…”? The work of an artist should not be devalued because of his character or his unethical conduct, personal or professional, but at the same time, cheering the great sexual harassers of the past while trying to destroy tolerance of sexual harassment in the present seems like activities that should not be occurring simultaneously, since the two objectives undermine each other.
2. Is fake “doom and gloom” unethical?
The constant representation to the American people that the nation is in the midst of existential disaster when it obviously–well, if one isn’t completely addled by confirmation bias it should be obvious—is not can’t exactly be called “fake news,” but it is just as sinister in intent and just as dangerous in its potential results.
My errant focus was brought to this phenomenon in a film review, of all places. A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer who is incapable of not bringing his partisan and political biases into his reviews (thus making him a lousy reviewer, like the New Yorker’s late Pauline Kael) began his take on Matt Damon’s eco-fantasy “Downsizing” with this statement:
“A radically dystopian future seems like the best we deserve these days..”
Then I began looking for sentiments in pundit pieces and other commentary in the news media about how uniquely horrible it was to be an American in 2017. That assumption has tainted so much news reporting this year that it amounts to virtual brainwashing, and yet that characterization is false, in both comparative and absolute terms. Not only are many trends and developments uncontroversially positive, such as the long-delayed economic recovery, including booming business and consumer confidence, but in other areas as well. Yet The New York Times consistently publishes pieces like this one, by Paul Krugman on Christmas Day, titled, “America Is Not Yet Lost.” It is like a medical school case study on derangement, or a broadcast from the Bizarro Planet. We are told, directly or indirectly, that the reasons that the United States is in historically dire straits is because the Democrats lost the election, the headlong rush towards becoming just like the European socialist nanny states that they thought was finally assured has been stalled, and because, most of all, Donald Trump is President.
I can’t decide whether all these pundits really believe this, in which case they are mentally and emotionally unfit to do their jobs, or if this is a concerted, desperate effort to create panic and hysteria in defiance of reality, in order to justify undoing the election. The characterization of the GOP tax bill was the most recent example of how the negativism makes legitimate analysis impossible. “This is wrong !” is always a perfectly responsible argument in a democratic society. “This is evil and will destroy us all!” is not.
The irony? The most negative and dangerous feature of the past year has been the conduct of the segment of the public and the media that has been screaming at the sky since the 2016, in some cases literally.
3. Now THIS is ad hominem! An inexplicably highly-regarded blogger in conservative circles, Don Surber, issued a convoluted post somehow connecting criticism of the certifiably awful “Christmas movies” that have been running continuously on the treacly Hallmark cable channel with the “war on Christmas,” and Hollywood’s noisily expressed hatred of the President. He also somehow concludes that anti-Trump sentiments from movie stars are a major factor in the 2017 decline in movie-going. This is clinical confirmation bias.
But Surber really goes bonkers when he concludes his post with 41 examples of public figures, politicians, media types, Hollywood figures and organizations that criticized Trump and were subsequently, or in some cases, had been previously, exposed for misconduct themselves. He calls this the Trump Effect List, which makes no sense at all. Macy’s has had to close stores because it dropped Trump’s fashion line over his comments about illegal immigrants?
In most of the list, what Surber is doing is attempting to counter criticism of the President by pointing out that the critics had character problems of their own.
4. Diagnosis: Jerk. Has there ever been a time when ordinary citizens with such half-baked opinions could get as much publicity for their disability through self-righteous protests? Here is the note that accompanied a package of horse manure hand-delivered to the Bel-Air home of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a Christmas present, by political activist—he’s also a psychologist for the L.A. Department of Mental Health, which explains a lot—Robert Strong:
He ‘s proud of this. Sure, it’s political speech, because “I hate you” is political speech. It’s also political speech that anyone over the age of 11 should be embarrassed to be associated with. Strong’s Twitter narrative about this masterpiece–he actually compared sending a box of shit to the Treasury Secretary to Martin Luther nailing his declaration to the Wittenberg door— is smoking gun proof of civic incompetence. “If the GOP can fleece the American people in such a brazen fashion, we must call it out in such a brazen fashion,” he tweeted.
Only a zombified leftist could describe a tax cut as “fleecing” anybody, and, of course, he almost certainly hasn’t read the law, only criticisms of the law by others, many of whom also haven’t read the law. If you are going to go so far as to send horseshit to someone in a box over a tax bill, I think you should be more than casually acquainted with what the bill actually includes. I think that’s fair.
5. Tales of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale: A reddit thread asked “What is socially accepted when you are beautiful but not accepted when you are ugly?” The simple answer would be “almost anything.” I was just reading a website that reported on the reddit users answers as if this was news to anyone who has been paying attention to life. No, this is Cognitive Dissonance Scale 101:
As we often discuss here, when a feature of an individual is high on the positive side of the scale, it will tend to yank the negative actions or features of the same person up the same scale. Physical attractiveness is a hard-wired, universally-appreciated feature that always has this effect on human beings. Thus teacher/ child molester Debra LaFave, who had sex with her 14-year old student, got a ridiculously lenient sentence because she looked like this:
One of the reddit thread’s “revelations”: flirting in the workplace is ” basically sexual harassment if you’re ugly.”
Yes, Ethics Alarms has made this point repeatedly, as I did here.
The bias towards beautiful or attractive people, like all biases, needs to be actively fought by ethical people, all the time. The reddit discussion did surface one example of how we treat attractive and unattractive people differently that had not occurred to me, thus making the article valuable:
“Bothering people who are reading. After years of sitting in coffee shops reading, I realized I was curt with anyone who tried to engage me in conversation, unless they were an attractive girl.”