Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.”

3. Althouse falls into the false equivalency trap, and boards the Covington Catholic Students Ethics Train Wreck. Ann Althouse’s strength as a blogger and cultural commentator is her ability to keep an emotional distance from almost every topic. It’s also her greatest flaw, allowing her to go off on trivializing tangents about stray words a subject used and other diversions as if the main issue was just as trivial. She really botched things up with this post on the Covington School mess, when she wrote,

“Both Phillips and Sandmann were ordinary people living private lives in obscurity. They each did something that got them into the spotlight, but neither really asked or was at all prepared to be inspected and judged by millions. We should be charitable toward both of them. Ideally, they would never have been a news story at all. It is the media — mainstream and social — that deserve criticism.”

While it is true that the crux of the story was the eagerness with which the news media and “the resistance” rushed to impugn Catholic school students whose crimes were wearing a cao supporting the President, demonstrating against abortion, and “smiling while white,” the suggestion that both the activists targeting the students and the students themselves were equally blameless is one more distortion. To their credit, Althouse’s commenters protested her spin. From multiple comments…

“Both Phillips and Sandmann were ordinary people living private lives in obscurity.”

After Nate Phillips served time in Lincoln, he camped out on the Mall in DC; in a teepee. More recently he was at Standing Rock, ND. He’s been on TV and in the newspapers many times. Sandman, on the other hand, is a high school kid in a flyover state….

Yes, Phillips didn’t look for media spotlight at all. Exactly for this reason, he had somebody in his entourage record everything, then publish the video…

True. Phillips assumed his little stunt would result in the kids — and only the kids — being “inspected and judged by millions.” He didn’t count on a much longer video exposing his shameful behavior…

Aside from showing up and camera-hogging at every nationally prominent protest, appearing in a music video, and touting himself as a “tribal elder” and Vietnam veteran, poor Nathan was just trying to live a life of quiet anonymity…

Phillips is a serial agitator, liar, and perpetrator of stolen valor, as he has repeatedly presented himself as a Vietnam combat veteran, instead of the mechanic who never left Nebraska while in the service he was. He also went AWOL 3 times. Phillips was trying to provoke an incident. The boy did not take the bait, so the Democrats and their lapdogs in the Lame Stream Media© manufactured an incident.

You are better than this Ann….

And much more in the same vein. The problem is that Althouse doesn’t really care about the episode itself; she just wanted to use it as an entry into a discussion of abstract “principles of charity.”

4. Preparing a new rationalization. Especially on Facebook, many have tried to duck responsibility for their biased and unfair attacks on Sandmann and his fellow students by retreating to an “everyone was at fault” and “there was blame on both sides”  shrug. I hate the “a pox on both their houses” dodge—maybe that’s what I should call it. The new rationalization will probably be filed under #2, Ethics Estoppel” or “They’re just as bad.” Retreating to false equivalency is lazy and dishonest, and I have seen more of it in this Ethics Train Wreck than usual, though it was also a feature of the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck: “Sure, the Democrats falsely accused him of being a sexual predator and called him a rapist, but he was at fault too for getting so angry about it.”

5. What’s “toxic masculinity”? Courses on how to deal with “toxic masculinity” are popping up on college campuses. College Reform reports that it interviewed Georgetown University students after the anti-male Gillette ad debuted, and found that students were not sure what  “toxic masculinity “is. Oh, I can explain it to them: it’s a tool being shrapened to justify anti-male bigotry and discrimination against men. Attributing negative conduct to an entire groups is bigotry, and the ethical response to courses on “toxic masculinity” would be to regard them exactly as one would a course on “silly girlie behaviors” and “black anti-social behavior.”

We should expect that as any group acquires power, it will abuse that power and use it to marginalize other groups, especially groups that have marginalized them. Expecting it doesn’t mean we should excuse it or tolerate it. Here’s a social media meme that makes that point nicely, in a parody of the Gillette ad mocking SNL writer Sarah Beattie’s “joke”:


24 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

  1. Why were both sides at fault? It is Democrat math.

    Democrat Math: wear a MAGA hat = threaten to blow up a school full of children

    Democrat Math: wear a MAGA hat = call a black child a N***** and tell him that his friends will harvest his organs

    Democrat Math: wear a MAGA hat = announce that you will pay anyone who will hunt down and attack a high school student

    Democrat Math: wear a MAGA hat = publicly express your desire for the death of a group of children

    In all this mess, it did begin to wonder if any slippery-slope argument about the policies and ideology of the left has NOT come true.

    • You gotta understand that Trump supporters, ostensible or otherwise, are responsible for inciting others to (advocate for) extreme violence! Don;t you see that wearing a MAGA hat is like showing bare ankles. What do they expect the consequences will be? What red-blooded Democrat can be expected to behave with any self-control in the face of so much temptation?

      Returning to a more serious tone, Jack’s #1 today just reminds me that so many past political sins were amplified by post hoc actions – it wasn’t the crime but the cover up. Here again, there is some post hoc allegations of lying that the Left wants to blow up into a cover up; but, as Jack correctly points out, no actual crime to cover for.

      Using the investigative process as a tool in this fashion is not unique to the US but it is becoming a defining characteristic.

      • Yes, your first paragraph explains another aspect of Democratic Math: If violence is directed toward opponents of Progressive Agendas, even if said opponents did not initiate actual physical violence, the mere presence of those opponents is sufficient provocation.

        Just like the Jews in Germany brought the spontaneous exuberance of German national pride on themselves by their mere presence…

        • I have just ordered a MAGA hat, in red. I will defend that baseball cap and my right to wear it to the best of my ability. I may wind up getting squashed, but we have to start taking the fight to these people. For the record, I find Trump repugnant, but he is the elected President of The United States, and I will fight to defend the office.

  2. 1) There’s a reason Ken at Popehat is constantly beating the “Shut Up!” drum. Law enforcement prodding someone until they can catch them in a trivial lie and then bringing Obstruction charges not directly related to any other crime isn’t unique to the Mueller investigation. It’s worth noting but not because it’s so extreme and out-there, but because it’s a huge spotlighted example of an incredibly sketchy police tactic.

    2) That’s because traditional media outlets have no idea what to make of original streaming content. Made-for-TV movies would appear to be a direct comparison, but those are minor players while original content from the streaming giants has an impact more comparable with cinema releases. You could go by length- but I’ve heard the final season of Game of Thrones is going to have episodes landing between 90 & 120 minutes. We’ll call them long episodes and not a series of movies because they are from a TV network, but that’s rather arbitrary. I call the Hallmark Christmas schlock “movies” because, I suppose, they’re longer than an hour and are stand-alone unconnected stories, but that’s arbitrary as well.

    • “We’ll call them long episodes and not a series of movies because they are from a TV network, but that’s rather arbitrary.”

      And to further muddy the waters: a “TV network” named “Home Box Office” whose original purpose was to play movies, unedited, on cable TV specifically because it was a media not prevented from doing so by FCC content regulations. Movies are in HBO’s DNA.


  3. #2 “Roma” is an artsy telenovela. Cuaron is a hit or miss director, and this was a miss, like Gravity, and his shot at Harry Potter (which is a shame, because that was my favorite book in the series).

    U.S. audiences are mesmerized because it is something new and different. Mexicans are ecstatic because the typical story we grew up watching on afternoon TV while helping mom cook dinner is now getting a nod in the big stage.

    Also, to be fair, there have been limited cinema showings of the thing.
    In any case, I think the nomination is undeserved.

  4. On point 1
    Roger Stone may be a loathesome character but these Gestapo style 6 am raids to arrest him for a process crime, especially when CNN is given a heads up to film the “perp” walk, is more evidence that the Mueller investigation is designed to cripple Trump’s reelection chances which could result from his policies. Who, that has the smarts to run a campaign, would be willing to sign on to the team to reelect Trump if they believe they could become a victim of Andrew Weissman and his interrogators.

    This is not the first time Mueller’s brownshirts have stormed into their subject’s home at 6 am. Mannafort too was subjected to this type of abuse. Before this who can forget the perp walk of the guy that made anti Muhammad cartoon that HRC blamed for Benghazi. I am willing to accept large shows of force to ensure a safe takedown of a violent suspect but these arrests appear to be designed for maximum political damage to the Right.

    Stone may be a slimeball but when the progressive leaning slimeballs are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny we permit a false narrative of progressive innocence and victimization.

    I have come to the conclusion that the political establishment both on the Left and Right will sacrifice every value we hold dear regarding justice to protect their hold on power.

    Trump may lie with the dogs and gets fleas but the DC kennel is ripe with fleas, rabies and distemper. Perhaps the only way out is to euthanize the entire bunch ( metaphorically speaking) – obviously at the ballot box.

    • I have come to the conclusion that the political establishment both on the Left and Right will sacrifice every value we hold dear regarding justice to protect their hold on power.

      Welcome to the team. We call this group ‘The Swamp.’

      I have, upon occasion, called the the ‘Establishment Elites,’ but ‘The Swamp’ is just as elegant and descriptive.

  5. 1 Stone

    a) The lack of a crime doesn’t seem to be a problem for Mueller, because everyone is sure one exists somewhere.

    b) The butler in the dining room with a candlestick. The most interesting thing is, every leak in this investigation is one-way. Also, why the guns and SWAT gear — were they expecting Roger Stone to resist, or destroy evidence that any rational person bent on destroying would’ve swept away years ago?

    c) This:

    Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems.

    is because Trump values loyalty and sycophancy over character. It’s his most damning flaw, and one wonders how he got to be so wealthy being saddled with it. You’d think he’d been a victim of embezzlement tens of times with character judgment like his.

    2 Netflix

    Are the Oscars still relevant to anything? I ask very seriously.

    3 Althouse

    I might agree with if Phillips weren’t such an obvious scoundrel — stolen valor, lying to cameras to further his celebrity, being a complete stranger to the truth.

    There should’ve been no story, really, other than condemnation of the Black Israelites for their racist, sexist, and homophobic verbal assaults — if anything. Phillips could’ve gotten away without any trouble if he’d just acted like a normal person instead of a publicity-seeking idiot. As it is, he’s getting exactly what he deserves.

    Unfortunately, neither of the other two actors are getting a fair shake — no significant opprobrium for the Black Israelites, and a bunch of pure hatred directed at young, mostly minor men. I guess “if even one child is [saved, helped, rescued from circumstances]” doesn’t apply after the MAGA hat goes on. The only question remaining is what would happen if one of the CovCath boys were a minority.

    4 New rationalization

    I hate the “a pox on both their houses” dodge—maybe that’s what I should call it.

    Yes, that’s a good point. The complete moral equivalence inherent in that rationalization is really breathtaking in this case.

    4 What is “toxic masculinity”

    Any actual masculinity at all, as far as I can tell.

    Oh, I can explain it to them: it’s a tool being shrapened to justify anti-male bigotry and discrimination against [white] men.

    There, fixed that for you.

  6. “Toxic masculinity”! God, what a sick, nauseating society we have the misfortune of living through.Shit like this is a byproduct of the age of technology, and what can be expected to happen when all needs are met, every itch scratched, and all natural, healthy stressors removed. Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said that people who have no troubles will invent them? Well, here ya go: toxic masculinity!
    My wife saw that STUPID commercial, and said “God, I am SO glad I married a man, and not some preening, weeping, metrosexual sissy that spends more time in front of a mirror than I do. Would you like a sammich, Daddy?”

  7. Re point 5

    When have women ever been marginalized in modern western society. Most of our norms, customs, laws and attitudes since 1970 are biased in favor of women.

    Of course we can point to what is termed mansplaining to refute the above statement but women do the same thing in domains they believe they are expert such as child care, relationships, and other right brain areas. Men far too often do not call out the same behavior of being marginalized by women so it appears that only men engage in such demeaning conduct.

    Negative male stereotypes abound in current marketing which make men appear as neanderthals or idiots. This type of marketing reinforces the bigotry of some women toward males.

    Marginalization of others occurs in all groups. When we say “white men cant jump”, or “talk to the hand”, or perhaps statements like “he must be making up for a shortcoming”, we permit marginalization which, when unchallenged, becomes the normative culture. I expect to see more female pundits on TV adopt Anna Navarro’s method of marginalizing a guest’s opinion by filing her nails and ignoring him when he speaks.

  8. #2 – According to Time, Roma did release in theaters before it was on Netflix. None around me that I’m aware unless Chicago had a showing but that’s still a couple of hours outside my area.

    On a different ethics note, what is your opinion of the short film (30 minutes)
    “Detainment.” being Oscar-nominated while not having consulted nor having consent from the parents while using the real transcripts and footage from the case? If you’re not familiar it’s about the 1993 case of James Bulger, the 2-year-old that was taken and then horrifically killed by two 10-year-olds in Liverpool. Reportedly the film seems to almost sympathize with the killers. There’s a January 23 article on the Washington Post that details it.

    I think I have to side with the family on this one even overlooking the fact that one of the two killers was arrested again as recently as 2017 for possession of child pornography. It doesn’t seem the Academy is inclined to pull it off the list. Bohemian Rhapsody could be though because the original (he was let go and didn’t finish the movie) was accused of sexual assault from the past. In that case, I don’t agree the actors or director that actually finished the movie should have to suffer for it, but they could. In the “Detainment” one, however, this director profited from a 2-year-old’s murder without even 1)notifying the family the film was being made or 2)having their consent.

  9. On Roma – others have alluded to this, but yes – to qualify for the Oscars, there are rules:
    (see full here: )

    2. All eligible motion pictures, unless otherwise noted (see Paragraph 9, below), must be:

    a. feature length (defined as over 40 minutes),

    b. publicly exhibited by means of 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24- or 48-frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image 3 format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Image Characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000); and image and sound files packaged as Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) in either “Interop” or “SMPTE DCP” formats. SMPTE DCP refers to SMPTE ST429-2 and related specifications. (Blu-ray format does not meet Digital Cinema requirements.)

    The audio in a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is typically 5.1 or 7.1 channels of discrete audio. The minimum for a non-mono configuration of the audio shall be three channels as Left, Center, Right (a Left/Right configuration is not acceptable in a theatrical environment). The audio data shall be formatted in conformance with ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution
    Master – Audio Characteristics and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling,

    c. for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County,

    d. for a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily,

    e. advertised and exploited during their Los Angeles County qualifying run in a manner normal and customary to theatrical feature distribution practices, and

    f. released within the Awards year deadlines specified in Rule Three.

    3. Films that, in any version, receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release will not be eligible for Academy Awards in any category.

    Nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution includes but is not limited to:
    • Broadcast and cable television
    • PPV/VOD
    • DVD distribution
    • Internet transmission

    Motion pictures released in such nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County qualifying run remain eligible. Also, ten minutes or ten percent of the running time of a film, whichever is shorter, may be shown in a nontheatrical medium prior to the film’s qualifying run.

  10. Elder Phillips did nearly the exact same song and dance in Michigan in 2015. My inner cynic believes he got a pretty big hit of attention from harassing the college kids back then, and saw his chance to up the stakes with high school kids in MAGA hats.

    The left seems to believe that you can do or say anything to someone in MAGA gear without remorse, because they’re asking for it. Use this same logic on a girl in a short skirt “asking for it”. If you can’t, then no one is asking for it, and it’s become a justification for any bad behavior…for wearing a hat!

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