Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/24/18: Jarrar And The Kardashians

Good morning, everyone!

1 Something stupid. I haven’t written about the Kardashians for a long time, unless you count Kanye West, but he has a legitimate claim to celebrity and the fact that he’s married to Kim K. is more or less a footnote. This morning, checking some cyanide out at the CVS, I saw this cover by the register:

Quick, now: why would it be smart and profitable to put this story on the front of a tabloid magazine? Who is Khloe Kardashian (normally I would try to find a way to get that accent over the “e” but it just isn’t worth it) and why would anyone on God’s green earth care about what she’s doing or what someone else is doing to her?

This woman is the youngest of the original Kardashian sisters, all of whom achieved fame-via-reality show after Kim’s sex tape was released and she gained fame for the size and shape of her butt. I’m not kidding. That’s it. That’s the whole basis for the culture’s love affair with the Kardashians,  and the reality show that introduced ugly duckling heavyish for a professional slut family youngest sister Khloe to America began in 2007, eleven full years ago. And what has Khloe, who is no longer heavy, or recognizable, and that was worth a book and a spin-off reality show—done since then to make her adventures worthy of the time you would normally use to alphabetize your sock drawer?  Absolutely nothing, other than appearing on TV with her weird, venal, narcissistic family, and being rich due to no fault of her won. (Her late father was one of O.J.’s cronies, played by David Shwimmer —“Ross” in “Friends”— in the O.J. miniseries, and her mother is a successful Hollywood hustler.) Here is the full extent of her societal worth, courtesy of the ridiculously long Wikipedia entry:

On September 27, 2009, Kardashian married NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. The couple were married exactly one month after they met at a party for Odom’s teammate Metta World Peace. Following her marriage, Kardashian removed her middle name to include her married surname, becoming Khloé Kardashian Odom. Kardashian adopted a pet boxer named Bernard “BHops” Hopkins, after the famous boxer.

On December 13, 2013, after months of speculated separation, Kardashian filed for divorce from Odom and for legal restoration of her last name.[43] Divorce papers were signed by both parties in July 2015; however, the divorce had yet to receive final approval from a judge. In October 2015, Odom was hospitalized after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel, and was in a coma for four days; as he lay in a hospital, Kardashian withdrew her pending divorce petition. In an interview with People Magazine, Kardashian confirmed that they had not reconciled and the divorce had been withdrawn so that she might make medical decisions on Odom’s behalf.Kardashian and Odom’s divorce was finalized in December 2016.

Kardashian is currently in a relationship with basketball player Tristan Thompson. The couple reside in Cleveland, Ohio.In December 2017, she announced they were expecting their first child together.  In March 2018, Kardashian revealed she would have a girl. On April 12, 2018, Kardashian gave birth to their daughter, True Thompson. He cheated on Khloe Kardashian with other girls leading to him being inactive on social media at Khloe Kardashian’s wishes.

This does not speak well of the culture, American society, its values or its prospects.  My father’s generation was enthralled by the family dramas and controversies surrounding pubic figures like Charles Lindbergh, who, after all, accomplished something and displayed useful and admirable values in doing so.  His generation and the precedding one did have a soft spot for robbers like Dillinger, Bonny and Clyde and before them, Jesse James, but that was because they were styled as latter day Robin Hoods. At least robbing the rich to give to the poor is something. Actors, actresses and sports heroes have always been popular culture icons, but they were famous for their art and achievements, not just for showing up, or worse, showing up and acting like an idiot.  Imagine Babe Ruth being idolized because of fame bestowed on him solely based on his gluttony, promiscuity and drunkenness. That’s where we appear to be now. There really are tweens out there who will announce that they want to grow up to be like one of the six or seven—I don’t know where to put the former Bruce Jenner—Kardashian girls. Parents should lock them in a high tower like Rapunzel, but they won’t, because they probably hope their daughters grow up to be like Kim, Kourtney, Kendall, Khloe aand whatever that the other ones are named…Katmandu? Kalamazoo?

How can ethics survive in a culture like that? What am I doing?

2. Today’s ridiculous Fresno professor news note. Vile, vapid and vicious Fresno State University professor Randa Jarrar told The Cut in an interview that racism was behind the backlash she received for attacking former first lady Barbara Bush on Twitter the day she died. That’s perfect. Jarrar is as much a “person of color” as I am, but nonetheless, as a card-carrying Left-wing nut job, she defaults to race-baiting when the going gets tough. I love it!  Jarrar, who is some kind of Egyptian, Greek, Palestinian mix that apparently results in someone who looks like a cross between Melissa McCarthy, a bad Billie Holiday impressionist and “Bloody Mary” in a desperate community Theater production of “South Pacific”…

…really and truly said,

“Women of color routinely have their tone policed, their justified anger painted as hatred, and their criticism of injustice framed as racism toward white people.”

You know what this means, don’t you? I can claim that any criticism of stupid things I say and write is based on racism! I’ve been waiting for this moment all my professional life!

3. But wait! There’s more! Meanwhile, Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced the same day the interview came out that his school reviewed Jarrar’s comments and determined that she didn’t violate any policies, and as a private citizen using her personal Twitter account,  her indefensible remarks were protected as free speech by the U.S. Constitution.

I call bushwa, If the school wanted to go through the pain of punishing her, it could have. I checked the school’s Faculty Handbook, unlike any journalists reporting on the story. Admittedly, in my view, it is inadequate in its lack of insistence, and every institution should so insist, that faculty members do not embarrass or harm the institution by their personal conduct. As I read it, a faculty member could promote world terrorism, engage in cannibalism and/or marry a horse without any professional consequences. That’s irresponsible. Every organization has to have some minimal standards of conduct for employees. Even so, I see this…

“Each faculty member is expected to maintain a high standard of professional conduct in their interactions with all members of the university community and in their pursuit of knowledge.”

Like most profs on social media, most of her followers are students. This communique was an interaction with the university community, and it was unprofessional. Then I see this:

“The primary professional responsibilities of instructional faculty members are teaching, research, scholarship or creative activity, and service to the university, profession, and community”

Public statements that are designed to foment hate and divisiveness while making the university look incompetent (for hiring such an ass), the profession look unprofessional, and that cast the university  community in an unflattering light are disservices. Then there is this…

“As members of the university community, all faculty members are expected to show respect for and due consideration of the role and contributions that each member of the university community, whether faculty, staff, student or administrator, makes toward the mission of the university.”

The professor’s gratuitous attacks certainly don’t show such respect for her OWN role, contributing to national ridicule and disgust toward the university while undermining its mission. Next we have,

“While you may engage in political activity…When you speak or act in your capacity as private citizen or enter into private business arrangements, you must distinguish these activities from your university obligations and make clear that you are acting outside your university employment.”

Not only didn’t Jarrar do that, she explicitly highlighted her faculty status in her subsequent boasts that she could not be disciplined as tenured professor.

Finally, we have,

“This section provides a general discussion of those responsibilities but is not meant to be all inclusive.”

That’s right, the old “we can’t think of every inappropriate, stupid, unprofessional thing one of these entitled bozos might do or say, but we will know it when we see it” catch-all provision…you know, like the part of the Constitution the Supreme Court used to make abortion a right. If Fresno State wanted to make the case that Jarrar that Jarrar breached her duties as an employee, it could. It just didn’t want to.

That’s fine: I think institutions that hire people as arrogant, intolerant, cruel, irresponsible biased and foolish as Professor Jarrar should be transparent to the world. Now we know that she wasn’t just an aberration. These are the kinds of awful people that Fresno State considers fully qualified to mold thee minds of the rising generation. Good to know, don’t you think?


33 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/24/18: Jarrar And The Kardashians

  1. 1) As much as I hate to say it, I think you’re being a bit myopic about the Kardashians and their place in history. There’s always been room in society pages and gossip rags for people whose sole qualifications are 1) having a lot of money, 2) interacting with legitimatly famous people, and 3) being entertaining trainwrecks. You can quibble over whether being the second cousin of a Vanderbilt or the third daughter of an Earl was more worthy than being related by blood or marriage to a rapper, basketball player, OJ lawyer, or olympic medalist, but in the end they’re there to be a living soap opera for people who will never get the chance to throw $500 a plate china at their own cheating ex.

    • Emily, you have to admit the Klan Kardashian is different. None of them have ever DONE anything. They’re famous for being Kardashianns. Have you ever watched their shows? I watched once for a few minutes. It was like sitting around in the kitchen of some rich kids I went to high school with. The conversation was vapid beyond belief and the people seemed like soulless robotic consumers. It was incredibly depressing. Do people aspire to that sort of life? That’s a problem. TV was aspirational when I was a kid. What’s the antonym for aspirational? Anyone? Beuhler?

      • ”TV was aspirational when I was a kid.”

        Copy that, OB!

        Hogan’s Heroes, Bonanza, Green Acres, I Dream Of Jeannie, Bewitched, F-Troop, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gomer Pyle USMC, Laugh-In, The Smothers Brothers, ad infinitum…fuggeddaboudit!

        Some of it was corny; heck, maybe even more than some, but so what.

        “What’s the antonym for aspirational?”

        Mindless 4-second-attention-span Serfdom.

      • Meh. Look at British society and all the fuss that is still given to one’s place in the hierarchy. The same is true in any society frankly. Given that we are only a few hundred years old, we place all of our attention on the sons/daughters of the ridiculously wealthy, movie stars, and sports stars since we don’t have royalty or nobility. Remember “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?” Nothing new here — although I’ve never understood it.

        • This is just culturally and historically wrong. The Aristocracy were held up as moral exemplars and role models: their misconduct was newsworthy because of that. Every member of the old British aristocracy got there because of some virtuous act. And while we may know mostly of the black sheep, the celebrity is short-lived for all of them. Pris Hilton had a long 15 minutes, but at least her family built hotels.

          • Pris Hilton had a long 15 minutes, but at least her family built hotels.

            But you could say the same about the Kardashians: at least their father was a famous/successful lawyer for the rich and famous, and at least their stepfather was a famous Olympian/motivational speaker. Yes, Kim Kardashian wouldn’t be famous without the sex tape, but no one would have heard of the sex tape if she wasn’t a Kardashian.

            I don’t think this is a new problem so much as a more prevalent problem due to new technology and media.

          • In some cases, the “virtuous” act happened hundreds of years ago, the spawn of these people are of no interest to me and should not be to anyone else unless they too have done something worthwhile.

            And as for some of this country’s super rich, we can admire the 19th C. robber barons for their cleverness and ruthlessness, but all the libraries in the world does not make up for their sins. And again, I really don’t give a damn about their offspring.

            • True

              And true. But again, something is still superior to nothing. I don’t begrudge the Rockefellers their wealth, and perhaps because of accumulated guilt and obligation, they have generally spent it well. Let me know when Kim and Kompany start a real foundation.

          • This is just culturally and historically wrong. The Aristocracy were held up as moral exemplars and role models

            Ever heard a joke with the punchline “The Aristocrats?”

      • I’ve never watched their show, but I still disagree with the premise. No one cared about the Vanderbilt custody case because of the Vanderbilt’s contributions to society, nor was it aspirational in any way. They cared about it because rich people were acting crazy and that’s facinating to some people.

    • 1. ELEVEN years.
      2. Sons and daughters of Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Astors, Gettys and Rockefellers still have transitory importance, just like the children of Presidents do. You acn untimately trace the family tree back to someone who did something of value. “Having a big butt” and “getting caught on video having sex” don’t qualify, even now.
      3. No, Daddy Kardashian was not a star, a celebrity, or anyone of legitimate note. The girls are stars because their mother pimped them out. No other reason.

      • “Sons and daughters of Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Astors, Gettys and Rockefellers still have transitory importance, just like the children of Presidents do.”

        Disagree. In any event, we only know of the ones who have done something outrageous or have done something worthwhile on their own.

        • My wife made the same equivalency argument between the UK obsession with British Royals and the US obsession with the Kardashians. I think they are simply not equivalent. The Royals seem to provide some benefit for the UK and the Commonwealth. After all, their governments are called constitutional MONARCHIES. The Kardashians, however, are reprehensible and have no redeeming value. Come on, Sparty, are you going to make millions off of one of your daughters releasing a video of her having sex?

          • The British Monarchy is fascinating, and the benefits of it are poorly understood.

            King George, famous for losing Britain the colonies, and who’s poop probably stunk just like everyone else’s but was a royal shade of purple because he suffered from porphyria, was slightly in debt, being insane might have stifled his ability to make good spending decisions, and so he went to parliament.

            “Parliament!” He said, “I am in debt, but I control huge swathes of land that people pay me rent for. I want you to forgive all my debt, and give me an allowance, and for the rest of my life, you can collect the rent!” Parliament thought about this, and agreed, assuming that this would pay out in the long run. And boy, were they right. So much so, that one might uncharitably think it’s the kind of terms one might only be able to coax out of a crazy person. George’s descendants all agreed to carry forward the agreement, and the agreement in it’s current iteration costs Parliament about $40,000,000 pounds annually. “40 million pounds buys a whole lot of Yorkshire pudding!”, One might say, and they’d be right, except the profits Parliament receives from the crown land is about 200 million pounds annually.

            And if Parliament ever stopped giving the House of Windsor their allowance…. Why, they’d just have to take back financial interest in their lands, and the UK as a whole would be out 160 million dollars a year.

            • being insane might have stifled his ability to make good spending decisions

              When you’re gone, I’ll go mad
              So don’t throw away this thing we had

          • Bill — I hope I have raised my daughters right so they will neither aspire to make millions off of sex tapes nor become a wife of a royal. In both cases, they would trade their privacy and dignity to be a celebrity for the masses. No thank you.

      • Jack, you can make an exception for people who have, or are related to people who have actually accomplished something, but I am 100% sure that most of the people who have followed socialites and celebrity news over the past few centuries never cared about that.

        Most people in America had never heard of Sanford White, Evelyn Nesbit, or Harry Thaw until it came out that White had had sex with Nesbit (on a swing!) and Thaw killed White over it. Sure they all had various accomplishments, but I’m only aware of those accomplishments because of a murder caused by a turn of the century sex tape, and the same was true of folks in Peoria at the time.

        And I don’t believe that anyone who saw Grey Gardens thought it was a notable movie because the Beals were related to Jackie Kennedy.

        As far as I can tell, the only thing different about the Kardashians is that they specifically positioned themselves for this kind of fame, and worked to keep their 15 minutes rolling. They recognized something people have always liked — rich people being crazy — and turned themselves into fulltime preformers of rich-crazy. I’m sure they’ve been unethical plenty of times along the way (including involving minors) but for Kim, Kris, and the other adults I don’t think it’s new or inherently unethical.

        • I almost mentioned the Thaw case in the post! I think you underestimate Thaw’s fame, and if he hadn’t been involved, and if Nesbitt wasn’t already her era’s Kate Upton, there would have been no sensational story.

          And the analogy would be if Evelyn Nesbit went on to greater frame and earnings from the scandal for a decade. As you know, she didn’t. She was more or less ruined by the scandal, not made by it.

          And Grey Gardens would not have been made or attracted an audience without the Bouvier/ Jackie/Kennedy connection.

        • Thank you for the reference to a cultural story I had never come across. Fascinating story, and one that produced an American Ace (Nesbit’s son) in WWII.

          ‘Rich people being crazy’ is a great theory for the fame of these and the Kards…

  2. As someone who has been a Twitter follower of Randa for years and watched this meltdown in real time, I have seen her targeted in extremely racist, sexist, fat-shaming and homophobic ways, both during and prior to this incident. This doesn’t delegitimize the valid criticism of her behavior, but it does make it easier for her to dismiss all of it as motivated by these bigotries. If I were constantly harassed this way–even for much less controversial opinions, as I’ve seen happen to her–I might also choose to dismiss all the criticism as baseless instead of critically sorting through and examining my own culpability for my words. This doesn’t excuse her lack of reflection about her tweets or her choice to conflate all the criticism with bigotry, but it might help explain it.

    Pretty much every campus free speech organization there is, including most of those that your more radical leftists like to unfairly dismiss as only protecting the speech of right-wingers, has backed Fresno State’s decision not to fire Randa. To me that indicates that she shouldn’t be fired. I do think the campus should have investigated the suicide hotline thing, but they didn’t even include that in their statement; she could have been fired for that.

    • I do wonder if the shoe were on the other foot. See, I think that part of the reason Jarrar has a job today is that her superiors don’t want the heat, and they know the culture they live in. If however, say… Someone had opined that it was good that Obama’s mother was dead, with some kind of toxic justification about having birthed the Middle Eastern Bomber, or the Deporter in Chief, would the same people have rushed to the defense of the person (racist) who had spoken blasphemy against the family of their lord and savior, Obama Christ.

      The decision on whether or not to fire her, I feel, is more of an employment issue than a free speech one… Which makes me indifferent. I don’t generally hope people lose their jobs, but I respect the rights of employers. But you’re right, there are a lot of groups that would normally be associated with the right really going to bat for her…. It’s consistent, at least. I wouldn’t bet shoe-dust on the consistency of progressives.

      • Interesting how tenure has morphed into a shield for awful behavior. Tenured faculty are now exempt from any norms of decent behavior. Something intended to protect intellectual curiosity and the expression of possibly controversial intellectual ideas has given tenured professors a free pass to be jerks/ Weird. This woman is a creative writing professor? But her random thoughts about international policy are deferred to and protected? Reminds me of the Ward Churchill thing at my undergrad Hamilton College. The guy was in the AV department or something at Colorado but got the chance to insult the families of 9/11 victims, any number of whom were HC graduates. How do these sorts of comments relate to enhancing intellectual and academic vitality?

        • Tenure is the excuse, laziness is the reason. Even tenured professors can be fired with cause, it’s just that cause cannot be who they voted for.

          I’m convinced this is an Americanism… In most of the first world, the concept of at-will employment is foreign. In Canada, you generally have to discipline someone about a dozen times before you can fire them for relatively minor infractions, or you can generally turf them for something major… direct theft is probably the most common. That is… By far… More work than the average American employer has to put in to terminate employment, and I think culturally, it’s crippled their ability to build a file.

          If you really wanted to fire a professor, and they were actually doing something that specifically harmed the university… Like sending throngs of angry calls on non-school related business to a dean, and said dean wasn’t spineless, then the professor would be fired. Eventually.

          • I doubt anyone expected Fresno State to fire that woman. I didn’t. A California State University? Whose administrators report, ultimately, to Janet Napolitano? No way.

            • If she crippled their finances (not saying she did) or upset someone in power, even a California school will fire her… they will just wait until the 15 minutes are over with, and a year or two later an unrelated excuse will be used. It might not even make the news when it happens.

              If the donors to the school, or Cali legislature (HA!) are upset, thus putting finances in immediate jeopardy, she gets fired sooner. The platitudes mouthed by the school orifice were necessary to hold back the progressive mob, and will not matter if they decide she has to go. They would find a reason.

              Regardless, she is a liability with a microphone, and be sure risk assessments are being calculated.

              Academia has a long memory, and holds a grudge.

    • “but it does make it easier for her to dismiss all of it as motivated by these bigotries.”

      Not if she has any integrity it doesn’t. A baseball player stinks. He gets lots of criticism based on the fact that he isn’t playing well and earns 20 mil. a year. A predictable sick group of creeps use racial slurs in their criticism on social media. If he then says that the criticism of his playing stems from racism, he’s either lying, a fool, or deliberately race-baiting.

    • I thought this had to do with the school’s focus into the investigation.Didn’t Jack say in an earlier post if they had investigated things differently, it might not have been a free speech issue?

  3. “I checked the school’s Faculty Handbook, unlike any journalists reporting on the story.”

    I read that a half hour ago, and am still giggling. Jack, I know you were not trying to be funny, but still, honestly, that is the funniest statement I have read so far this week – well, okay, equal to Chris calling me weird and creepy.

    That photo of Jarrar you posted in this thread doesn’t make her look as cute as she looked in that very first photo of her you posted. But, I can still see her being a nominee for Oprah’s Secretary of Education. What a loss such an appointment would be for Fresno State and the California university system! What a boon, though, to the new and improved First Amendment she’ll be!

      • Thank you, slickwilly! I am feeling in somewhat finer form this week, since ceasing (that is, completing) a recent medication protocol. I could not recommend that protocol, but then, when death is the alternative to no-meds, I’ll take ’em all, and call ’em all “comfort food.”

  4. Wonder how the Kard Klan Brand will deal with the distraction of Kanye West leaving the Lefty Plantation by tweeting references to President Trump that don’t follow the iron-clad template of cutting him a new one.

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