It’s especially good because this is the last day of one of the worst Ethics Alarms months ever, with the lowest daily average of views for an April since 2013. I have no idea why, and I wouldn’t change anything anyway. I have my dark suspicions, though….
1 Pig brain ethics. Researchers at Yale University restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs, and kept the organs alive for several hours. Now ethicists are wondering if this was ethical.
- I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you asked the pig, he’d say that cutting his head off was more unethical than keeping his brain alive afterwards.
- Like a lot of bioethics controversies, this is more “ick” than ethics.
- Go on, make a “Futurama” joke.
2. Human brain ethics. Is we getting dumber? This Facebook quiz claims that “nobody” can get even 5 of these 10 questions right, and that if you get all ten right, you’re a genius. I hope that isn’t true. I would say that anyone who can’t get at least 8 of the 10 right is either under 15 or cognitively damaged. I really want to know what the average score is. If most Americans really can’t answer these, then we need to dismantle the public school system and start from scratch. And any teacher who can’t answer at least nine of the ten questions should be fired.
3. More on the WHCD fiasco:
a) The HLN correspondent who reported on the White House Correspondents Dinner disaster said this morning that “some were upset because comedian Michelle Wolf’s comments about Sara Huckabee Sanders were not very flattering.” That kind of equivocation is sloppy and incompetent journalism. The issue wasn’t that the jokes weren’t sufficiently flattering; that is literally a false report and fake news. The complaints were that Wolf was insulting, hyper-partisan and rude to an invited guest to the point of bullying and harassment.
b) This morning on CNN, Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota demonstrated grade school level ethics ignorance by arguing that Wolf’s ugly act was justified by President Trump’s cruel and insulting comments on the campaign trail. Tit for Tat, “He started it,” “It’s not the worst thing,” “Two wrongs make a right,”—their arguments tracked one rationalization and fallacy after the other. Have these two never been taught the principle of professionalism? Civility? The Gold Rule? Any ethics at all?
c) The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern defended Wolf’s attacks on Kellyanne Conway and Sanders with this tweet:
“The White House purposely sent Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway to the #WHCD to then feign outrage at the jokes made at their expense, so… don’t fall for it.”
Do I have to explain all that’s wrong with that logic? I hope not.
d) In the post earlier today, I wondered if CNN’s Brian Stelter would acknowledge that his attack on President Trump for not attending the dinner looked extra-ridiculous in hindsight. Guess not: he retweeted a link and a quote from a web article defending Wolf:
“Nothing about what Michelle Wolf did on Saturday night was easy. It was hard, harder even than the truth telling that Stephen Colbert did to President George W. Bush’s face” at the 2006 dinner.”
Is that one on the rationalizations list? I don’t think so, and boy, is it ever stupid. What difference does it make whether an unethical act is easy or difficult? Besides, there was no courage involved for Wolf: she exploited the spotlight to elevate her status as a “resistance” star, and it worked. The fact that her uncivil and inappropriate personal attacks embarrassed her host and employer and insulted invited guests wasn’t an issue for her at all. Netflix will be running a new show with her as its star. Undoubtedly she’ll be hosting Saturday Night Live soon. Stelter thinks this cynical career opportunism is civic courage?
All journalists had to do to defeat Trump was to play it straight, report facts, be fair, and not appear vindictive, vicious and conspiratorial. They couldn’t do it. They couldn’t do it because they thought they were better than he is, but in truth they are no better at all.
4. If only Rob Schneider were funnier...The former SNL comic had some wise words for the uniformly Trump-Bashing comic establishment in an interview with the Daily News. Speaking of his old show, Schneider said in part,
“The fun of ‘Saturday Night Live’ was always you never knew which way they leaned politically. You kind of assumed they would lean more left and liberal, but now the cat’s out of the bag they are completely against Trump, which I think makes it less interesting because you know the direction the piece is going….[Dana] Carvey played [George H.W. Bush] respectfully. To me, the genius of Dana Carvey was Dana always had empathy for the people he played, and Alec Baldwin has nothing but a fuming, seething anger toward the person he plays…Alec Baldwin is a brilliant actor… he’s not a comedian…I don’t find his impression to be comical,” he added. “Because, like I said, I know the way his politics lean and it spoils any surprise. There’s no possible surprise. He so clearly hates the man he’s playing.”
5. It was a nice cover while it lasted. Richard Painter, the furiously anti-Trump lawyer and legal ethicist who has championed some of the most unethical and unhinged arguments for Trump’s impeachment was accorded special credibility despite his wacky theories because he had worked in the Bush White House and claimed to be a Republican. Now it is reported that Painter will be running for Al Franken’s Senate seat in Minnesota—as a Democrat. Nobody who has read Richard’s positions on other issues over the years is surprised, I’ll bet.
6. An ethics movie review. On Practical Ethics, Neil Levy reviews “I Feel Pretty,” an Amy Shumer comedy in which an average looking woman comes to believe she has become gorgeous over-night, and that belief changes her life. An excerpt:
“Of course, there is a great deal we can and should do for ourselves. But effective action requires a clear-eyed view of the situation in which we act. Promoting fantasies is good entertainment, but to the extent to which we think its ‘message’ is anything more than a commercial for lipstick and eyeshadow, it’s more dangerous than empowering. Be as confident as you like; you’ll still get judged on how you look (even by people who are themselves struggling to reject the norms they apply).”