Ethics Quiz: The Billionaire’s Tweet

David Geffen, the American businessman, movie producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist, is perhaps best known for creating Dreamworks Studios with fellow billionaire Stephen Spielberg. I mean, the guy is rich. How rich is he? He’s so rich, no one can make a “How rich is he?” joke that makes him laugh, because they all are true applied to him.  Anyway, Geffen just got in trouble because of this Instagram message:

..showing his $400 million superyacht, Rising Sun,  off the coast of the Grenadines, a chain of small Caribbean islands in the lesser Antilles.

Indignation and anger erupted on the Left and Right. Here’s Market Watch snarking,

If ever there were doubts about how the superaffluent are faring amid a pandemic for the ages, media mogul David Geffen wants to make it abundantly clear that, for his part, he’s doing just fine — and he wishes us all the best… The self-made billionaire doesn’t owe the rest of the world anything, presumably, but his tweets and tone may underscore the yawning chasm between how the 1% can cope with isolation amid a pandemic that has deeply altered the normal patterns of society — perhaps, permanently. A recent New York Times article published on March 5 highlighted the lifestyles of the rich and famous amid the pandemic, which featured the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow en route to Paris Fashion Week wearing a pricey black face mask, while many health-care workers are struggling to obtain lifesaving masks for their jobs.

“The rich are sparing no expense when it comes to minimizing their experience with the coronavirus,” the Times story observed. The Guardian wrote that the wealthy are taking to private jets to escape the virus, while other affluent folk are fleeing to places like the Hamptons and Cape Cod, taking refuge in their posh summer homes or ensconcing themselves in luxurious rental properties…The expanding distance between the haves and the have-nots, however, isn’t sitting well with many.

“The View’s  Meghan McCain said, “David Geffen is worth 8 billion dollars! For God’s sake help this country get ventilators, our health workers masks and the medical supplies they need! Or no, just stay on your fucking yacht instagramming. This is just shameful and grotesque.” “David Geffen could have donated that yacht to NYC to be used as a makeshift hospital,” New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted. Film producer Robby Starbuck  tweeted, “David Geffen’s thought process: ‘Hey you know what, millions are losing their jobs, can’t pay their rent and they’re worried about a deadly pandemic, I bet they’d love to know how I’m doing. Fire up the copter so we can take some more pics of my yacht! They’ll love this!!!”

Geffen is a progressive and a contributor to Democratic candidates, so he got no passes from conservatives either. “David Geffen tacitly tells the rest of the world to get bent,” wrote conservative pundit Ed Driscoll. A commenter on Instapundit wrote,

Dear Mr. Geffen: Marie Antoinette voiced a similar tone during the French Revolution (although there is debate wether she said, “let them eat cake” or not) and she literally lost her head. Best you stay on your boat for awhile…..

Geffen has made his Instagram account private.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day…

Does David Geffen deserve all the abuse for his message and photograph?

My answer: Nope! His mistake is not understanding how much class hatred has taken the Left, where his allies reside, by the throat and shaken the sense out of them. Their anger is rooted in envy and jealousy. He has a huge yacht, and its a great time to use it. He wished the world well and showed everyone a nice scene that most people won’t see. Anyone who regards such a message as offensive is looking for someone to focus their anger and frustration on.

If the lifestyles of the rich and famous are so offensive to you, why are you following the Instagram accounts of billionaires?

Given the attitudes of those he regards as ideological allies, it was foolish of him to forget the natural results of the political views he supports, but that doesn’t make it wrong. The criticism was a mass of pettiness and cheap shots. His tweet had nothing to do with all the pandemic stats Market Watch appended to its article about Geffen’s message.  It’s like the killjoys who complain, “How can you celebrate Christmas with all the hunger in the world?”

Wajahat Ali complaining that he could be using his yacht as a hospital ship is more of the unethical, “do what I want you to do with your wealth, not what you want to do” routine. My message to the Times writer: Why don’t you get cracking and make a few billion dollars of your own and do it yourself? Or at least spend your time volunteering to get groceries for elderly shut-ins rather than attacking what others are doing?

The conservatives mocking Geffen are predictably throwing metaphorical tomatos at a rich progressive who gave them a target. The David Geffen Foundation funds health clinics, theaters, museums, and charities for the homeless; he has earned his lifestyle. The Right’s criticism is hypocritical.

What do you think?

52 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Billionaire’s Tweet

  1. It was probably not a wise choice to post a picture of his huge yacht. However going to high school in Newport I would putt around in the Harbor with my 14’ runabout and the folks who had true yachts would wave at me and being 17 there was no way I could afford a 30 footer. No problem whatsoever.

  2. I give everyone with money to burn a pass until they start telling me what to do with my money.

    What difference does it make if he makes his comments and includes a picture of a yacht in the Carribbean or from the media room of his multimillion dollar home whining about having to eat cereal rather than being at a resturaunt eating sushi. (Cardi B)

    I expect much of the anger is spillover from general isolation by those who need constant adulation which is demonstrated when they are given the best table, are allowed to bypass any line of waiting patrons at the hot club, or are able to get others to debase themselves for their amusement. When they don’t get it they get mad.

    Had Geffen been on a deserted island surrounded by white sandy beaches and palm trees he is still isolated without any ability to run down to Trader Joes Those who bitch about his level of comfort are just mad they don’t have it.

    • Just off hand, why would anyone follow Geffen on instagram except close friends and those who want to vicariously enjoy his lifestyle.

      What is it that makes so many want to play voyeur to the lifestyles of the rich anf famous?

        • I’m not sure that the politics of class envy have ever significantly changed. Doggerel from the Renaissance complained “when Adam tilled and Eve spun, who then was the gentleman?” Similar sentiments have been expressed throughout history.

          Still, I think that the mass media has made class envy more profitable for politicians and demogogues than it once was. Even a reasonable, intelligent person can often be manipulated if fed enough propaganda, and there is soooooo much manipulative half-truth in the television shows we see and the articles that show up in our social media feed.

          Adding to that is the constant, misleading claim that the American middle class is declining, forced into debt slavery by greedy industrialists and the politicians in their pocket. Such ideas are first promulgated by economists like Thomas Piketty, then carried forward by demogogues like Robert Reich. Even though many of thier foundational claims are easily debunked, they are spread far and wide by credulous allies in the media, feeding the perception that the American system is rigged to favor only the rich.

          • I agree, of course. One reason is that envy is a constant; the current trend of hurling “Privilege!” at everyone is sight is part of the phenomenon. Envy, jealousy and the reluctance to accept responsibility for one’s own life and choices are constants among humanity, but the United States should still be one place where those tendencies are minimized.

          • Of central banks, Bannon said, “They’ve made you debt slaves, hamsters on the wheel.”

            Adding to that is the constant, misleading claim that the American middle class is declining, forced into debt slavery by greedy industrialists and the politicians in their pocket. Such ideas are first promulgated by economists like Thomas Piketty, then carried forward by demogogues like Robert Reich. Even though many of thier foundational claims are easily debunked, they are spread far and wide by credulous allies in the media, feeding the perception that the American system is rigged to favor only the rich.

            The creation of ‘hamsters’ is more complex of course than just turning people into economic debt-ridden hamsters. It is part of the globo-homogenization project well underway. Even if you refuse to see it or consider it.

            With this sort of statement you imply that no critique of any aspect of the present system is possible, nor necessary. And were you to counter Piketty and Reich it would be to completely dismiss their ideas and to stop any conversation on the subject from taking place.

            Not only will *you* (a general you of course) do this in this instance, you will do it in most and possibly all other areas. It is a ‘tendency of mind’ or a way of dealing with difficult and demanding problems.

            You undertake to ‘debunk their foundational claims’ and yet this results not in an uncovering of facts and truth, but the obscuring of both.

            When these sorts of statements are made — and here they are made all the time! — it points me in the direction where more study is necessary, and then an accurate presentation and portrayal offered.

            Here, I receive The Lie, the partial truth: the tendentious truth. A critical attitude is necessary to combat this, and I can only say Thank You for providing an opportunity.

            • I absolutely did not ” imply that no critique of any aspect of the present system is possible, nor necessary”. I merely stated that the mass media fail to properly critique the proposals of such men as Piketty. Nor do I “completely dismiss their ideas”. They have ideas that are well worth considering, and a proper discussion of Piketty’s work would fill a good-sized volume (His magnum opus, Capital in the 21st Century is almost 700 pages…).

              Similarly, I didn’t undertake to debunk those particular men here, which would obviously take much more detail than a simple message jotted down from my phone would ever allow. I simply indicated that there are such rebuttals, which are frequently ignored by the talking heads of the mass media.

              • You did not merely *imply* it, you stated it directly:

                “Adding to that is the constant, misleading claim that the American middle class is declining, forced into debt slavery by greedy industrialists and the politicians in their pocket. Such ideas are first promulgated by economists like Thomas Piketty, then carried forward by demogogues like Robert Reich. Even though many of thier foundational claims are easily debunked, they are spread far and wide by credulous allies in the media, feeding the perception that the American system is rigged to favor only the rich.”

                There is hardly any other way to read that paragraph.

                • Many of the claims that Piketty and his disciples make can be debunked. It does not follow that every last one of their claims can be debunked, nor did I claim that nothing they had to offer had merit. I feel that their claims are given too much credence because they feed the myth that this is a nation of victims and predators. The people promoting this narrative seek to undermine property rights in the name of social justice.

                  • I understand better with that clarification. Myself, I am trying to understand better what is true and what is false. Very hard to do when so many stories circulate. I put in a call to Sybil the Soothsayer but she never gets back!

        • Can the site proprietor declare his own comment “comment of the day”? 1st vote cast, here, seeking a second for the motion to carry.

  3. No, he did not deserve the out pouring of hatred he got from the Left and Right-though honestly the outpouring of venom from the Left was predictable, and I image that he has effectively now made himself a target for cancellation.

    What form that cancellation will take is anyone’s guess-but more than likely it will amount an accusation of some sort of ‘ism’ or ‘phobia’, or a sexual assault accusation.

    • Actually, it is there already in place: The Elusive Man at the Heart of Hollywood’s Sex Abuse Scandal mentions David Geffen. This is the Hollywood Globo-Homo elite you are talking about. (I did not bother to read the whole article. My point is that people will be protected even when their activities are completely reprehensible — even if *evil* — when it serves some ulterior purpose. But when required, or when some degenerate purpose is best served, they will be taken down and destroyed. But it has nothing NOTHING! to do with virtue or the lack on it.

  4. Did he deserve it? No more than anybody else deserves to have abuse heaped on them. Did he set himself up for it? Yep. Anyone with a little wisdom can see that right now a lot of people are very concerned about their futures, and that maybe they might have a little less tolerance for behavior they would otherwise just ignore.

    Although it’s not required, maybe it might be a little wiser and show a little more discretion to keep a low profile right now, rather than put out a post that says “I got mine, sucks to be you.”

    I’d also point back to the Bible, where God punishes Nebuchadnezzar for boasting by driving him insane and sending him into the wilderness to live among the beasts. Boasting and bragging are just not good things generally.

  5. It’s an interesting conundrum. Arthur in Maine notwithstanding, I actually now live on Cape Cod because I have a special needs sister who needs looking after. She’s prone to pneumonia in the best of times. I’m at higher risk for complications from this bug myself due to age and asthma since childhood. So yeah, you might say I’m being pretty damned careful.

    I contacted my sister’s pulmonologist yesterday to get one of her prescriptions refilled. He’s a lovely guy. I asked how things were going; he’s doing most of his consults online and by video relay these days – not surprising. He allowed that the vast majority of the patients seen at the local hospital – mainland Cape Cod has two – are summer home owners who reside most of the time in New York.

    It’s even worse on Nantucket – the island has a 14-bed hospital with no ICU and the island is at closest point 17 miles from the main body of the Cape. You get there by boat or air. And a lot of very wealthy people do. Last week, there were no cases on Nantucket, and the island tried to shut itself off. Today, there are five. The year-rounders ain’t happy.

    At least Geffen is (hopefully) staying on his own damned boat…

    • To Arthur-of-the-Cape: Not surprised to hear about the hospital invasions — your sister is living way too close to NYC. My cousin, living in Connecticut, described a similar situation in his small town rural area hospital some months ago. Last I heard the local citizens were engaging attorneys to demand that the hospital not take any out-of-state, and few out-of-county patients during the pandemic. Fortunately, they have some junior geffen’s in the neighborhood so they can, maybe, match any bribes that come from Outliers.(yeah, it’s That kind of rural area). I hope you won’t need hospital services and that you are able to reduce some of the pressure you’re experiencing taking care of your sister and yourself.

      • Thanks. So far, we’re doing fine. She’s bored to death, but we’re hunkered down and healthy – at least for the nonce.

          • Falmouth. And yes, the Cape is (normally) quite pleasant. But Maine is God’s country, which is why I didn’t change the handle when I moved here. I did that purely because that was what was best for the family, and I was the only one of my other sibs in a professional position to make the move.

            • Having grown up in Scituate, MA – which is lovely itself – I wholeheartedly agree that Maine is God’s country. I would live there in a heartbeat.

                • Their house still stands. I walked past it a thousand times as a kid. I also played on the jetties of that lighthouse for countless hours; pulling periwinkles off the rocks and cutting my bare feet on the barnacles, ocean water the only antiseptic. It was a magical place to grow up.

                  Thanks for the link! Fun to reminisce.

  6. No, he does not deserve the vitreol. Who in their life has not at least once wanted to have that kind of money to blow in things above their living and charity needs? If I had a luxury yacht that might be a good place to ride this out, as long as I had satellite internet.

    The worst thing you could say is that the image and caption for his posting was epically tone-deaf. That’s all.

  7. Forbes: “By Saturday afternoon, the sounds of villagers with pitchforks had grown too deafening for Geffen, and he did the most sensible thing he’s done all day: He switched his Instagram to private.”

    It would be really interesting to listen in to the sort of conversation the very wealthy and talented have between themselves when they discuss their position and standing as entertainment icons. They must know that just as they can be elevated . . . they can then be taken down with the inverse of all that *love*.

    How you look at people depends on what angle-of-view you decide to take. But since everything about our capacity to judge and assess is totally up in the air and profoundly confused — we don’t have agreed-on criteria — the *devils* can be made to seem saints and the saints, devils. It depends who handles the description and to what purpose. It is in a sense a question of PR management: image-management to be more exact. But then as a *consumer* I have also to be able to unravel the *lies* that are presented to me through the agency of PR. As Steve points out: from a PR perspective it was a bad move to send out that message. Did he not consult his media image specialist?

    Every wealthy person, whether they really do so or not, should be seen as making a heroic gesture. Had they shown Geffen with a team of seamstresses sewing N95 masks I’d have loved him all the more! Now, I am not certain what I feel. I await the next PR installment . . .

    I just read most of his bio on the Wiki page. One could choose to see him as just one more figure in the American Postwar — the Sixties more exactly — who has contributed to and participated in the overall decline while having a great time doing it, or one could see him as a creative, energized man who contributed to the evolving social world in all manner of different ways. There may come a time when some future Gibbon writes about the decline of America and these decadent figures will be given their role in it.

    It does not matter though if he is *sheltering-in-place* in the Caribbean or in Los Angeles or anywhere else.

    “The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood” by Tom King is said to be a book that exposes the darker side of the man. There is a review of that book in the NYTs dates 2000. He seems to be not at all unlike most of the Jewish heavy-weights of the Hollywood industry. Shrewd, intelligent, creative, and perverse by any moral and ethical standard. These are people who bring the Globo-Homo ethics . . . to the world. These people define in a significant degree *the world* we now live in because they handle ‘the perception industry’.

    According to the Wiki page Joni Mitchell wrote the song ‘Free Man in Paris’ with Geffen in mind:

      • You allude to a very interesting issue: how creativity and even genius are used to propel and inculcate (what I term) deviancy. Or more properly said cultural and musical cycles that result in degeneracy.

        But it stands to reason that just as creative power, expressed through dynamic musical forms can be used and have been used to *bring about the world that we now live in* (deviancy, dissolution, confusion, rebellion) so it could be used to reverse those trends, and set things in a different direction.

    • These are people who bring the Globo-Homo ethics . . .

      Since you made the point of saying it twice – it’s such a cute-sy phrase -, please explain exactly what you mean by “Globo-Homo” ethics, Alizia.

      Oh, and when you’re finished with that, do tell how you manage to connect “Jewish heavy-weights of the Hollywood industry… [s]hrewd, intelligent, creative, and perverse by any moral and ethical standard. a religion with perversity.

      • Globo-homo is a dissident term, obviously. It is also one of those devious meme-terms that gets everyone tied up in knots. Similar to the meme ‘Its OK to be white’ or the ‘Islam is right about women’ meme. It goes right to the core of an issue which no one can talk about because of all the restraining force of the politically correct. Yet, there is something to be talked about.

        On one hand it contains ideas about global homogenization:

        “Globohomo” is used to describe a globalized homogenization. It is desired by those who wish to profit and have power over the homogenized masses. If everyone is the same and that homogenized spectrum is cut down into an obedient materialist consumer culture, then those in power will remain in power and impose their will onto the masses without resistance. Rather than defining oneself by violent divisive identifications such as race and culture whatnot, identifications will be of a TV show or upcoming movie series i.e. general consumerist product. Lack of rigid definition creates a lack of resistance (beta turd etc.). Why homosexuality is introduced as a vehicle is because the normalization of all abnormalities, even if not beneficial to the propagation of the race, culture, and tradition, is another part of the process of homogenization.

        But it also indicates, with greater or lesser degrees of clarity, a global homosexualization project:

        Globo-homo: (adj) A word used to describe a globalized and homogenized culture pushed for by large companies, politicians, and Neocon/Leftist agents. This culture includes metropolitan ideals such as diversity, homosexuality, sexual degeneracy, colorblindness in regard to race, egalitarianism, money worship, and the erasure of different individual cultures, among other things. The term is often used by Dissident Right figures, as well as other people associated to the right on the political spectrum, who are aware of the globalization being forced upon multiple countries. Also used to describe Global Capitalism and/or Marxism. The globohomo system is referred to as the Globohomo Gayplex.

        If you are asking me for exegesis — you seem to be — I would say that the term is open-ended and non-precise and one reason for this is because it is a term associated with a manifestation of anti-liberalism. Those in the dissident right who define a dissident platform are more often than not critical of liberalism, and because they are searching for a cure or an alternative to *liberal excesses* they turn toward more rigorous and defined moral and ethical positions. I am an example of that given my traditional Catholicism position or posture.

        We are looking for ways to counter, to turn back, to oppose, to work toward, to rectify, to renovate, the world that your generation has contributed to: a perverse world where *anything goes*. I say directly to you that we are justified in this, despite your complaining.

        For more see here.

  8. There have been rumors for a few years the super rich were seeking methods of survival in a SHTF period. Think of it as a safe room where you can live for a decade or so. No idea how real those rumors are.

    To be transparent, I’ve mentioned taking my much less grand floating home off shore after the election in November just to be safe. Not very citizen-like of me.

    Geffen can do what he wants, but clearly is horribly tone deaf.

  9. Does David Geffen deserve all the abuse for his message and photograph?

    Yes, he does. He is violating the Golden Rule, flaunting his wealth in a way that appeals directly to the worst emotions in people — green-eyed jealousy and fear.

    Geffen has a perfect right to his billions and his yacht, but at this moment in time, people are out of work and in fear of both the virus and being forced to live a dystopian life of quarantine and economic horror for an unknown future.

    Brandishing your flashy yacht that people will instantly be tempted to translate into the ways that excess fortune could be used to help the less fortunate is both stupid and tone-deaf, not just unethical. He deserves to be ratio’d good and hard.

    • Oooo, is this really a Golden Rule situation? “Don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t want them to do unto you if you were as petty, jealous and class obsessed as they are”? Isn’t this the same logic used by universities who shut down conservative speakers because they will cause “violence,” meaning that students will react with violence to perfectly acceptable expressions of free speech. No?

      • Isn’t this the same logic used by universities who shut down conservative speakers because they will cause “violence,” meaning that students will react with violence to perfectly acceptable expressions of free speech. No?

        Fair question. Let’s analyze it:

        1. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Would Geffen really, if he were a normal person, want billionaires flaunting their wealth at them in a time of widespread distress, and perhaps unintentionally but no less factually mocking his fear and helplessness?

        I think no, but your mileage may vary.

        2. Is this really the same logic colleges use to shut down conservative speakers? Perhaps superficially, but not actually. Objecting to Geffen does not require restricting his speech, but rather engaging in more speech to point out his tone-deafness, which is obvious and manifest.

        Naturally, if you carry the metaphor from simple disagreement to an assertion that the speech is “dangerous” or represents “violence” or a “threat,” in my view you have moved off the reservation of sanity and turned the Golden Rule into license to censor. To do so requires a discard of reason and an embrace of assertions so counter-factual as to be risible.

        Conclusion: Because the Golden Rule or rather, an unreasonable emotional interpretation of it can be perverted to a defense of authoritarian censorship does not mean we should abandon it. So in answer to your question, the answer is “No,” bolstered by the fact that perversion of the Golden Rule beyond rationality is not a valid application of it.

  10. The first word that came to my mind was simply, “idiotic.” Whether his ethics alarms did or didn’t ring or not, where was his brain? Don’t these guys have PR and communications flacks to review every single communication or move they make? Doesn’t he have anyone reviewing his posts or tweets or instagrams before he pushes “send?” If not, why not? There was no one there to say, “Uh, David, you might not want to do that. Let’s go get a massage on the fantail, shall we?” Stunning, really. And let’s not leave out “arrogance” and “hubris” and maybe even “cheapness.” “I can do everything! I’m King of the World! Who needs advisors?”

    Idiot.

  11. Megan McCain is not a progressive, although she sure as hell sounds like one while demanding that billionaires pay for ventilators.

    The reporting on COVID has been sensational, the political parties are still sniping at eachother, and people still can’t consistently go out to the local Safeway and pick up TP. People on the cusp of financial insecurity are being laid off, people who aren’t laid off probably aren’t earning what they were before, small businesses are shuttering, and some won’t reopen. People are literally dying. I think we can all agree that at face value, things aren’t rosy. Even if tomorrow a 100% effective vaccine is developed, announced, made available and pushed into every vein in America, this is still going to be a lean year… And let’s be real: That’s not happening. People are scared. And who can blame them?

    Juxtapose that with a wealthy person instagramming their “isolation” from a $400,000,000 yacht. “Oh dear, the poors are having a dreadful time, Bartholomew! Fire up the helly! We need to take pictures that will lift their spirits!

    It’s kind of like choosing to eat Kobe Beef in front of starving people. Some people would dislike that someone was eating Kobe beef, because it’s decadent, some people would hate it because they think eating meat is immoral, those people are stupid. But some people might not like the picture of taunting people less fortunate than you…. And I can’t say as I blame them.

    • A second thought occurred to me. Maybe this is a Paige Spiranac situation and the logical explanation for Geffen’s behavior is simply, a la Mel Brooks and “The Producers,” ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it!’

      “I have this funny tendency to try to make various EA posts consistent from one to the other. Kind of a game.”

  12. …and to think that (probably, IMO) if someone had just flown the drone straight ahead a few hundred feet so that the sunset was in the shot from that spot but the yacht was not…

    When did I turn into Dr. Seuss???

    …then the same post would have been fine in most people’s eyes and he’d not have been besot with what he got (a lot of rot).

    Someone make me stop!!!

    –Dwayne

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