Is it unethical for an ethics speaker to drop trow during a program? I think so. It was a situation I narrowly avoided this morning. I am a rather animated speaker, and after I slammed the D.C. ethics rules into the floor to illustrate a point, my effort to retrieve the volume resulted in the rear snap of my galluses pulling loose from the back of my pants. With an unpantsing imminent (and about to be streamed live to hundreds), I asked my moderator to come down from his platform and rescue me by reclipping the devices on, which he did.
1. “Asshole” ethics. In another episode today, I referred to Harvey Weinstein as an “asshole,” in the context of discussing the multiple David Bois ethics problems in handling the Hollywood mogul’s representation. The exact statement was “Even assholes deserve competent representation.” This came closely after I had mentioned that lawyer incivility was an ethics problem whether there were explicit rules against it or not. One of the attendees in cyber-space texted a query as to whether it was uncivil for me to use the term “asshole.”
I answered that I was reminded of the moment in “1776” when one of the members of the Continental Congress challenges Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term “tyrant” to describe King George. Is it really necessary, Jefferson is asked, to use such a harsh word? Why resort to an insult? “Because the King is a tyrant,” Tom replies.
I went on to say that I have found that in certain situations, only certain harsh words are sufficiently accurate. What should I call Harvey, a miscreant? A jerk? No, the man is an asshole, I said. I’m not using the term as an ad hominem attack, but as the most accurate term I can think of for someone who has done the things he has done to so many women while indicating no remorse at all. I do not use the term indiscriminately, and would not use it in certain forums, such as open court. But I do not believe in word taboos, and when the description, however harsh, fits, it is not uncivil to make a Harvey Weinstein wear it.
2. Now, what’s the right word for THIS? In the Washington Post, Dan Hassler-Forest reflects on the themes of “The Lion King” and asserts that the lions, hyenas, and gazelles are “stand ins for human societal organizations” and that the themes of the movie “incorporates the white supremacist’s worldview.” Hassler-Forest is an author and public speaker on “media franchises, cultural theory, and political economy” who works as assistant professor in the Media Studies department of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “No matter how you look at it, this is a film that introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong,” his article asserts.
Yes, Professor Obvious, that’s because “The Lion King” is about non-human societies, and somehow, most six-year-olds are able to figure that out. I wonder why the Post thinks this bit of knowledge is worth an op-ed. “A Bugs Life” and “Antz” are about ant colonies, for example, and yes, those animated films illustrate a society with an autocratic hierarchy too. In fact, any film, animated or otherwise, about animal communities that extols democratic societies and celebrates individual rights is expressly using animals as stand-ins for human beings, like “Zootopia.” “The Lion King” is not about humans or their societies. Will some third grader please explain this to the professor?
3. “I’m shocked—shocked!” Saikat Chakrabarti, the chief of staff of Representative Ocasio-Cortez, explained to the Washington Post that the so-called “Green New Deal” has been misunderstood. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” he said. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
Oh, it wasn’t misunderstood at all, at least not my me and many others who have their eyes open. Climate change fear-mongering has long been employed to persuade the gullible and prone to hysteria that they should accept a radical reduction in their personal liberty as a desperate, sole alternative to climate Armageddon. Not all environment-minded activists are this manipulative and Machiavellian; some are undoubtedly sincere despite having common cause with nascent totalitarians like Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and others. Enough, however, are happy to use climate-change hysteria to accomplish their hidden, more sinister goals.
It’s remarkable that Chakrabarti thinks its wise to be honest about it.
4. Now I really AM shocked… The Abrons Arts Center in Manhattan will host the world premiere of Joshua William Gelb and Nehemiah Luckett’s “Jazz Singer,” a new adaptation and experimental reinterpretation of “The Jazz Singer,.” The 1927 film introduced “talkies” with singing star Al Jolson as the son of a Rabbi who defies his father by seeking a performing career in blackface. The production will actually use blackface, which I would think is unavoidable if you are going to do the show (the Jolson movie was based on an early 20th Century play) or any version of it . The musical adaptation of the film has been in the works for almost three years, said Craig Peterson, the artistic director at Abrons.
Bravo. I wanted to revive the play under the auspices of my theater company in the Washington, D.C. area, but never got around to it. I suspect that I would have had a fight on my hands with the board. As I have written here (and here, and here) before, not all blackface is racist in intent or effect, and mounting “The Jazz Singer” is another example of a legitimate use of the genre.
Of course, just publishing those articles appear to be one of the reasons Ethics Alarms has been banned on Facebook, because no matter how you look at it, Facebook introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong.
4. Bravo…to all for the suburb Open Forum yesterday. I have yet to get through all of it, but I will, and it is obvious already that it is a rich mine for Comments of the Day. Thanks, everybody.
5. Heading straight to the “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up” Hall of Fame. Testifying on the Hill yesterday on the topic of family separations at the border, former acting ICE Director Tom Homan was clear, unyielding and overwhelming as he batted away the contrived hysteria over separating children from parents at the border.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez—yes, her again— called Homan the “author” of the “family separation policy.” Homan clarified that while he did not write the policy, he had made “numerous recommendations” to Homeland Security, including advocating a “zero tolerance” policy for those attempting to cross our borders illegally.
“Which includes family separation,” Ocasio-Cortez interrupted, thinking that she had a “gotcha.”
“The same as it is with every U.S. citizen,” Homan replied “… [who] gets arrested with a child.”
Ocasio-Cortez then said, “Zero tolerance was interpreted as the policy that separated the children from their parents.” No, the articulate and cool witness countered.
“If I get arrested for DUI and I have a young child in the car I’m going to be separated,” Homan said. “When I was a police officer in New York and I arrested a father for domestic violence, I separated that father from his family.”
“Mr. Homan, with all due respect, legal asylees are not charged with any crime,” said the congresswoman. Wrong, Socialist Breath. Homan: “When you’re in this country illegally, it’s violation 8, United States Code 1325.”
“Seeking asylum is legal,” Ocasio Cortez replied.
“If you want to seek asylum, you go through a port of entry,” Homan correctly said, noting U.S. law. “Do it the legal way. The Attorney General of the United States has made that clear.”
There isn’t even the basis for a legitimate debate here. This is why Ocasio-Cortez was left muttering to herself, and had to resort to trying more rationalizations on Twitter.